The Guinean and Liberian governments have begun negotiations aimed at allowing Guinean iron ore concessionaire, West Africa Exploration (WAE), to use Liberia’s railway and port infrastructure in Yekepa and Buchanan respectively, to exports its iron ore. The Ministers of Lands, Mines & Energy and that of Transport from the two countries along with WAE officials met in Monrovia last week to discuss details leading to the consummation of an agreement.
According to Liberian government officials at the meeting, Guinean and Liberian authorities signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) four months ago, to pave the way for further negotiations that would lead to the signing of an agreement between the two countries.
The Guinean government is very keen on transporting its iron by train through Nimba County to the port of Buchanan for shipping. According to WAE and the Guinean government, the port of Buchanan is much closer to the Guinean side of the Nimba Mine than the mine is to the Port of Conakry.
The port of Buchanan and the Yekepa Railway, which hits Buchanan Port, are the two, key infrastructure that are expected to be improved and used by the company, they have said.
According to the company, “four months after the landmark MOU between the government of Liberia of Liberia and Aim-listed Stock Exchange exploration company; Sable Mining Africa’s 80%-owned subsidiary West Africa Exploration SA (WAE) with the aim of developing infrastructure for Nimba iron-ore project in south-east Guinea, a high-profiled team from WAE, is in Liberia to make a formal presentation to the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee.”
The company’s presentation in Monrovia yesterday constitutes what it called “a concrete, further encapsulation (summary) that would enable the parties to take all the necessary steps with a view to entering a binding agreement to ensure WAE’s development, use and operation of rail and port infrastructure in Liberia to export its iron ore products from the Mount Nimba project.”
The third party being referred to in this is ArcelorMittal, that currently operates the Yekepa rail and part of Buchanan Port for its Liberia iron concession.
But addressing a joint news conference in Monrovia yesterday with the Ministers of Transport and Lands, Mines of Liberia and Guinea, Liberia’s Transport Minister Tornorlah Varpillah clarified that the railway is a property of the government of Liberia.
“It was built by LAMCO before the civil war; it became dilapidated as a result of the war, giving ArcelorMittal the opportunity for rehabilitation. Also speaking, Guinean Minister of Mines, Energy, and Geology, Kerfalla Yansane, said the MOU will pave the way for the consummation of a genuine agreement between the two Mano River Union nations.
“Our two countries will benefit from improved infrastructure, jobs and a transport system,” he said. For his part, Liberia’s Lands, Mines &Energy, Minister Patrick Sendolo, noted that the presentation of WAE is “good and the idea is good for the two countries.”
Minister Sendolo emphasized that the project will create employment for both countries. “This cooperation is of great importance to our two sister-countries,” he said “we hope that this agreement will be reached soon to ensure that it takes root.”
He assured the public that issues of community development and corporate social responsibility and welfare of affected communities will be discussed.
Initial capital investment in this project is estimated at about US$300 million. Guinea will be shipping about three million tons of ores a year for the first two to three years, creating initially, over 800 direct jobs for Liberians.
The investment will increase to more than US$1 billion as the project progresses. The company is expected to construct a railway from the Guinean side of Nimba Mountain to connect the Liberian side, explained National Investment Commission, (NIC) Chair Michael Wotorson. Guinean Minister of Transport, Mr. Alli Diallo, attended the ceremony.