15 University Based Student Associations Urge Liberian Gov’t To Conclude ArcelorMittal MDA
Fifteen county based student association at the state run university, the University of Liberia is calling on the Liberian Government to be resolute in the conclusion of the ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), and further cautioned if this is not done it will create security and economic threat.
Reading a prepared statement on Wednesday, May 19, 2022 at a well-attended news conference, the students said After almost two years of grueling negotiations, on September 10, 2021, the Government of the Republic of Liberia and ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel giant, signed an amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (‘MDA’) which would have paved the way for the expansion of the Company’s mining and logistics operations in Liberia, and correspondingly contribute to job creation and the overall economic development of Liberia.
Below is the full text of the Students’ press statement:
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we welcome all of you to this heartburning press conference this morning by15 county base student associations at the state-run University of Liberia. This press conference, one of those never seen before in the history of student association is imperative to caution and beseech the conscience of our leaders to take the economic wellbeing of the ordinary Liberians more seriously.
After almost two years of grueling negotiations, on September 10, 2021, the Government of the Republic of Liberia and ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel giant, signed an amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (‘MDA’) which would have paved the way for the expansion of the Company’s mining and logistics operations in Liberia, and correspondently contribute to job creation and the overall economic development of Liberia.
Transmission of the MDA to the Liberia National Legislature for ratification sparked overwhelming public and sectoral debate as to the actual benefit to the Liberian people. This confusion drew in deep confusion in many quarters in the country, including in the student community. There were allegations, counter allegations, intentional misinformation, leading to a total bruhaha in the public.
In order to meaningfully contribute to this national debate, we took up our time to painstakingly peruse and critically analyze the ArcelorMittal deal, after which, we got even more confused, because we saw nothing detrimental to the economic future of Libera – I mean, our future. All we saw were job opportunity for thousands of our hopeless youth; almost US$100 million in annual revenue, and additional economic benefits to communities where ArcelorMittal operates.
These findings at that point did not only further deepen our confusion, but they inspired our curiosity and suspicion that something was not right and a terrible misjudgment, with long reaching impact on today’s generation and many generations after us, was about to happen. And sadly, it took flight on December 16, 2021, the day when the House Committee on Concession and Investment presented a highly flawed and shallow report to plenary of the Lower House.
Our findings discovered that all of the contentions that the AML deal was not good for Liberia were entirely driven and inspired by a few Liberians who were hiding behind national interest to front for the Russian funded mining company, Solway, and the Guinean concessionaire, HPX-Ivanhole.
Solway was in 2020 given an exploration license on ArcelorMittal concession area hoping that ArcelorMittal would have concluded its mining interest in Liberia after the nine left by 2030; however, AML chose to expand. Solway knew that should Arcelormittal deal be ratified, their intentions to main in Liberia would effectively end, because AML concession area given them for exploration is illegal and the illegality would correspondently expand to addition 25 years instead of the current nine years which they have to contend with.
On the other hand, the Guinean concessionaire HPX-Ivanhole, has secured the Nimba mine on the Guinean side with a promised investment of about US$2.4 billion, which will see the company pay millions of United States dollars to the Guinean authorities in royalties and revenue same as Arcelormital is doing here in Liberia, and thousands of jobs would be created for the people of Guinea should the mine get operational. But the hard fact remain that all of those goodies are for the people of Guinea.
Now, the Guinean concession HPX-Ivanhole wants to package that mining concession in Guinea to sell but would need to include critical rail and port infrastructure to make their sale attractive and to increase the market value of the deal. In pursuing their access to these infrastructure, Arcelormittal yielded to the government of Liberia request to establish a multiuser arrangement for rail and port infrastructure in AML amended MDA, in order to accommodate HPX-Ivanhole and any other company that would desire using these infrastructure in the future.
Despite the compromises of ArcelorMittal to establish the multiuser arrangement, HPX-Ivan wanting to make their mining package more attractive has been pushing the government of Liberia to remove ArcelorMittal entirely as the operator of the rail and Arcelormittal has registered that that would be unfair. To backtrack a little, the public needs to understand that when Arcelormittal came to this country, our rail and iron port in Buchanan were entirely nonexistence and inoperable and the government of Liberia did not have the resources to rebuild them to ensure total control. Arcelormittal had to invest US$500 million to restore those infrastructure, then why should we a people of value try to ignore the reality and support this ill-fated action to remove Arcelormittal as operator of the rail? Even though the current Agreement gives AML exclusive rights over the rail and port, but the company has been willing to compromise by neutralizing its exclusivity so that Liberia can gain the additional revenue for other companies such as HPX to use the rail.
But HPX thinks that is not enough to ride on Liberia to achieve their business objective. That will never ne allowed here in this country. Liberia is a country of law and we will respect all corporate contracts in enter into to present Liberia as a favorable investment environment where investors can direct their money and go to sleep because their investment will be protected.
We would like to speak a little on the significant opportunities a port country as our is going to lose if the Arclortmittal deal is not passed urgently only because pockets of a few have been lined up.
As the largest foreign investor in Liberia, ArcelorMittal Liberia has invested over $1.7 billion in the country over the past 15 years. More than 2000 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with Liberians envisaged to fill the majority of the roles created. ArcelorMittal operates a Vocational Training Centre and provides two-year residential certificate training in mechanical and electrical trades.
As part of this same expansion deal, ArcelorMittal Liberia has also launched a training and development program for high potential Liberian employees who will gain on the job experience and knowledge in ArcelorMittal Mining operations globally. The employees will receive advanced training in the fields of mining production and operation optimization, plant maintenance, planning and execution, plant electrical operation systems, and electrical maintenance. Other training areas include plant fitting and heavy-duty mobile equipment maintenance, as well as mine production and operations.
The investment in advanced skills training demonstrates ArcelorMittal Liberia’s commitment to providing employment and professional development opportunities to Liberians. In addition, it is envisaged that the expansion will further boost the growth of small and medium sized businesses in Liberia which offer a range of services to ArcelorMittal Liberia.
Since the commencement of its operations in Liberia, ArcelorMittal has provided direct and indirect jobs for over 5,000 Liberians; Liberians currently hold 66% of the senior management positions at ArcelorMittal Liberia. Since 2006, ArcelorMittal Liberia has spent over USD$38m on County & Social Development Fund”.
Community Development Fund (CDF) has been launched, ensuring that 20% of CSDF goes directly to affected communities for development. ArcelorMittal Liberia has been contributing US $3.0 million annually for the three counties in which it operates (Nimba, Grand Bassa & Bong). To date, the company has paid $45 million towards this commitment. AML has made a US $40 million commitment to fund the paving of Yekepa to Ganta Highway, after the people of Nimba complained that LAMCO had not built this highway during its decades in Liberia.
What the lawmakers who are by the constitutional required to appropriate money for expenditure have over the years failed to do is to ask themselves the question of “why hasn’t the 45 million in county social development fund benefited the affected countries?”
Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, today, we leaders of 15 university students associations at the University of Liberia categorically state that we support the rectification of the 3rd amendment of the mineral development agreement between government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal. This agreement has the ability to lift thousands of people out of poverty.
We laud the Senate Protempt for his statement yesterday ignoring the arbitrary returned of the Arcelormittal deal back to the Executive without their consultation. We just want the Senate to know that we stand with them in this matter and urge members of the lower House to remember that they the not get elected to divert the real issue in the name of patriotism, and then make decisions the benefit a company outside of our sovereign jurisdiction. They should remember that posterity will judge them harshly and we will be here to attest to their unpatriotic leadership.
As the Legislature has reconvened yesterday, I call on the lower House to join the House of Elder – the Senate to meet in conference to transparently resolve and harmonize all matters of concerns around the Arcelormittal deal to give us the ordinary people who they represent the opportunity of respectable jobs and much needed resources for the economic development of our country.
The president of Liberia must do the needful, engage with the company and resolve all outstanding issues that could possibly hinder the passage of the deal. This is in the supreme interest of not just Liberians but also the president’s famous ‘Liberia is ready for business” mantra.