‘AML Agreement In Liberia’s Best Interest, But the Rail…’

US Ambassador Michael McCarthy.

-- U.S. Ambassador

The United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, on Tuesday, October 19, diplomatically endorsed the US$800 million ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) in spite of strong rejection from hundreds of citizens in Nimba County, especially those who live within the confines of the company’s mining site.

Speaking on a wide range of issues of national concerns, Ambassador McCarthy said with respect to economic developments, “we were encouraged by the September 10 signing of the amended ArcelorMittal Mineral Agreement, because we understand this will bring Liberia more than $800 million in foreign direct investment, hundreds of millions more in government revenue, and significant expansion of mining sector jobs, temporary and long-term.”

The U.S. Diplomat continued: “This agreement was under negotiation for quite some time, and the senate must now do their own review, but the progress so far sends a signal to investors that deals can get done in Liberia.” 

But the Ambassador also urged the Liberian Senate, who would approve the agreement to see the potential benefits for Liberia, were the rail asset to be shared, not monopolized by ArcelorMittal.  

“We also hope that the agreement, if approved by the Senate, will open the door for Liberians to become a future regional exporter of ore from Guinea.” 

Apart from the rail use clause in the revised agreement, it seems, according to Amb. McCarthy, the revised ArcelorMittal mineral development agreement is in the best interest of the people and, as such, the lawmakers should work with the local people on signing the agreement. 

“But I don’t see it particularly as a tension, I think that is a healthy tension because community organizers are always trying to get more for their communities, politicians want to get more for their communities, the company wants to save more money. Those are all healthy,” he said. 

He continues: “I will say that the executive is elected by the people, Legislature is also elected by the people and specifically the Senators and Representatives from those areas are represented by their people. So, if I were a congressman or senator and want to be re-elected, I will work to make sure that I got the best thing possible for my constituents while I am still encouraging investment.”

He said that ArcelorMittal has been putting money into funds that are supposed to help the community and “I see in local papers that members of the community are saying that they haven’t received any assistance from the company at the level they expected.”

“So, I am perplexed and sort of confused because I hear Arcelomittal saying they have been complying with their social responsibility requirements.  Honestly, I think this is the area where we need the help of the media because there are good questions to ask and some rare sort of reporting to be done because something doesn’t seem to be changing,” he emphasized. 

However, recently, a group of citizens from Nimba County presented a petition to their Legislative Caucus through Representative, Prince Tokpah, detesting the recent agreement entered into by the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) to extend the existing Mineral Development Agreement by additional 25 years.

In their petition presented Wednesday, September 15 2021, the citizens said they categorically and unequivocally denounced, rejected, objected to and resisted the extension of the MDA with AML, until the steel company can demonstrate and prove its compliance with the current terms and conditions of the MDA.

On Tuesday, October 19, ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) released what it calls a ‘self-compliance report’ to the National Bureau of Concessions.

The move by the AML is an apparent response to the allegations that the company has been reneging on implementing the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA). 

AML’s self-compliance followed consistent protestations over the allegation that the steel giant company had refused to implement the Mineral Development Agreement signed with the government of Liberia.

Speaking at the official presentation of the report to the National Bureau of Concessions on Tuesday, the Head of Government & Community at AML, Marcus Wleh, asserted that the report is intended to contribute to ongoing debates ahead of the AML’s proposed amendment before the Legislature.

Giving an overview of the 60-page report, Mr. Wleh averred, “This report is comprehensive and inclusive of ArcelorMittal’s achievements along with challenges facing the mining institution in Liberia,” Wleh stated. 

He added that the compliance report seeks solutions from the Government of Liberia in terms of how to address those challenges and move to the next course of its fresh operations.

According to AML’s head of Government & Community, the compliance report is a demonstration of ArcelorMittal’s continuous commitment to transparency and accountability.

AML said it addresses each of the 35 commitments and obligations in the MDA with the government. “For instance, Article 1 of the law states that, ‘This is what the MDA it says we (AML) should do, this is what we have done from 2005 to now, this is the evidence; Government, come and verify”, Wleh said, explaining what is in the unread report.

Adding, “We are hopeful that this formal documentation of the progress, achievements and challenges of AML will help to contribute to the debate that we are holding in Liberia now ahead of the proposed amendment to the MDA compliance report,” AML said.

He admitted that the company’s decision to submit its self-compliance report ahead of the concession company’s quarterly report was triggered by allegations that are intended to undermine the company’s proposed amendment.

“Some of our stakeholders have said that we need to show what we have done with what we were given before we start talking about the fresh deal and this is it. We are not saying that everything we’ve done is 100%, because the MDA’s total compliance is a process. 

There is a timeline in the Mineral Development Agreement that says, this should be done by this time, or that time, so there are definite obligations that are continuous; you will see the progress that has been made and to obligations that are time-bound you, will see progress,” AML’s representative indicated.  

Stating some of what the AML has done, the company said contrary to media reports, when it comes to employment, AML has exceeded all its obligations regarding payments. 

“We have fully paid off to the government on all our fiscal commitments, in terms of the environment, we are 100% in compliance and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be able to confirm this,” he said.

However, in an acceptance speech, the Managing Director of the National Bureau of Concession Commission, Atty. Edwin Dennis, thanked AML for its compliance report and urged other concession companies to follow suit.

He assured the public that the government has received the self-compliance and will dispatch officials to the concession locations to investigate to ensure that what is indicated in the report are factual. 

“We will do fact checking. We will investigate what you have in the report and what is in the agreement. We will be dispatching our teams to the concession site to verify and note that we will present our findings on the AML report,” the MD indicated.