The Government of Liberia through the National Investment Commission (NIC) and the West African Exploration/Sable mining company, based in Guinea, last Friday, signed a 25-year infrastructure development agreement valued at US$1.3 billion.
The agreement is intended for the transshipment of mineral from Guinea through Liberia via the port of Buchanan in Grand Bassa and Yekepa in Nimba Counties respectively.
The company is also expected, as part of the deal, to rehabilitate and expand the existing railroad from Yekepa to Buchanan in line with the use of a third party access rights between the Liberian government and steel giant ArcelorMittal.
Representing the Liberian government at the signing ceremony was the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee (IMCC), which includes the Ministries of Lands, Mines and Energy, Finance and Development Planning, Transport and Justice.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Acting National Investment Commission (NIC) Chairman, George Gyude Wisner, II, termed the agreement “a history moment.”
According to him, the agreement will bring social and economic benefits to Liberia and Guinea.
He disclosed that the company, WAE mining company, will invest $300 million in the first five of the 25 years and thereafter $1 billion in the remaining 20 years of its operations.
Moreover, the company, as per the deal, will pay a signature fee of $250,000 annually, beginning on the first anniversary of the date of operations, will make a contribution of not less than $2.5 million to the social development funds of the affected counties in the deal.
“The company will also pay an annual concession fee of US$1.5 million toUS$5 million for the transshipment of iron ore from zero million/ton to 10 million/ton each year, as well as taxes and duties as mandated in the deal,” he disclosed.
He further said upon consummation by the Liberian legislature, the Sable Mining is expected to begin transshipping iron ores later this year.
Wisner: “This agreement is important for several reasons. First it marks the fulfillment of a historic moment of regional cooperation, which dates as far back as July 14, 1973 when the government of Liberia under President William R. Tolbert and the government of Guinea under President Ahmed Sekou Toure signed a protocol that paved the way for the transshipment of minerals between the both countries.”
Second, he said the agreement affirms the Mano River Union (MRU) Accord and ECOWAS Conventions which aim to expand economic development through enhanced regional cooperation and cross-border trade.
“Thirdly, the agreement stands to bring enormous social and economic benefits, in the immediate as well as medium to long term to Liberia, in particular, and also to Guinea—two countries that have been seriously hit by the Ebola Virus Disease,” Mr. Wisner indicated.
“Finally, the agreement will also have the spin-off effect of enhancing political and security cooperation between both countries.”
“In keeping with the Agenda for Transformation (AFT) and the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) the government has ensured that the IDA socially obligates the West Africa Exploration SA among other things, give first priority to qualified Liberians in terms of employment” Mr. Wisner alluded.
He also reminded the two countries about the current health crisis, which has destroyed the economy.
Mr. Wisner reaffirmed the mandate of NIC to encourage, promote and facilitate the development of foreign direct investment in all sectors of the economy.
Transport Minister Angela Cassell Bush also said the agreement would not have been done at a better time than this as the virus caused has lot of challenges for the two countries. She stated that both countries need to work harder to ensure that their economies are on path with others.
Madam Bush maintains that the Liberian economy will remain open to other countries as they welcome investment opportunity.
Also speaking, the Guinean Ambassador to Liberia, Alhaji Abdulaye Dore, who, on behalf of his government, said the agreement is the first of its kind between Liberia and Guinea.
“Today, the agreement has brought unity between the two countries than ever before,” he said.
Amb. Dore said more and more young people of both nations are looking for job, so the agreement should be handled wisely.
Meanwhile, chairman and CEO of West Africa Exploration/ Sable mining company, Mr. Aboubacar Sampie, thanked the government of Liberia for affording them the opportunity.
Mr. Sampie said his company was ready to invest and promised to abide by terms enshrined in the document.