President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has witnessed the formal signing ceremony of the Agreement between the government of Liberia and TIDFORE (Hong Kong) Investment (LICEMCO) for the establishment of a steel plant in Liberia. The plant will transform raw iron ore and lamp stones into steel and cement.
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf reflected on the history of Firestone and a number of iron ore mining companies that started investing in Liberia in the 1920s and 1950s and how they have not been able to add value to the raw materials from Liberia. She therefore indicated that the agreement with TIDFORE Investment was a realistic break from the past that will enhance Liberia’s efforts towards manufacturing and value addition.
The 200-million US dollar investment will ensure the utilization of iron ore for steel production for both national and international markets, provide jobs for over 1000 persons, improve revenue collection, reduce the cost of both steel products and cement as well as improve infrastructural development. The agreement also seeks to ensure that all unskilled jobs will be done by Liberians only in addition to a high number that will be required for skilled and professional jobs. TIDFORE will also provide and maintain modern public facilities within the project area in accordance with best practice, general acceptable procedures and environmental law.
The president commended members of the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee’s, led by the National Investment Commission, stringent 240-day negotiation processes with TIDFORE Group, the first ever concession to add more value to iron ore prior to today’s agreement. She, however, noted similarly that the TIDFORE Group’s negotiation with the government of Liberia will have a far-reaching impact on the production of steel, cement and manufacturing.
President Sirleaf informed the executives of TIDFORE that while on her recent tour to Bong County, some aggrieved citizens of the county in the China Union Concession area complained about a number of unfulfilled commitments by China Union which should be looked into by TIDFORE for redress.
Speaking earlier, the acting executive director of the National Investment Commission, George Wisner, termed the signing of the agreement with TIDFORE as the beginning of an investment incentive contract with TIDFORE intended to support the government’s efforts to deal with the structural defects of the Liberian economy and ensure a paradigm shift from an extractive based economy to a more diversified one through value addition.
He reiterated that the role of the National Investment Commission is to support government’s economic policies in three key areas, including investment promotion, investment facilitation and private sector development in Liberia.
A representative of TIDFORE Group for his part commended officials of the Liberian government who make up the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee for their 240 days of hard work that led to the agreement and the signing ceremony.
Also speaking, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yue expressed delight over the signing of the agreement with TIDFORE Group and cautioned both parties not to jump to early celebrations over the agreement.
“I believe that the celebration should start when the project is in motion and not simply the signing ceremony. This agreement falls in two categories. Firstly, it is intended to facilitate the construction and operation of a 200 million (dollar) steel and cement plant that would transform one of Liberia’s major primary export commodities (iron ore) into finished product for both domestic and international markets,” he concluded.
The signing ceremony was attended by the chairperson of the House Committee on Concession and Investment, Rep. Zoe Emmanuel Pennoh; Senate committee chairperson on Lands, Mines and Energy, Senator Albert Chea; Senate committee chairperson on Investment and Concession, Senator Sando Johnson; Justice Minister, Frederick Cherue; Finance & Development Planning Minister, Boimah S. Kamara; acting Foreign Minister, Elias Shoniyin; Information Minister, Lenn Eugene Nagbe; Lands, Mines & Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo, among others.