We are as delighted as all Liberians to see commitments by international mining firms expanding their operations in the country, including commitments by ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML). We fully agree about the benefits and importance to Liberia of the AML expansion. However, would it not be even better for Liberia if two major projects could be implemented at the same time instead of just one?
Would it not be better for Liberia to triple the capacity of the existing railroad from AML’s planned 15 million to at least 45 million tons per year? To have an additional 600 million US dollars of investment in infrastructure on top of AML’s proposed 200 million for port and rail refurbishment? To create another 500 jobs and to generate millions of additional revenues every year for the local communities and for the National Government? This is what my company, Ivanhoe Liberia/HPX, are proposing—but our commitment could be derailed by legislation currently under consideration.
The National Legislature of Liberia is currently reviewing the third amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with AML after both the House and the Senate recommended changes to the MDA. However, ratifying this MDA as it currently stands without the proposed recommendations, gives an exclusivity right to AML for many years to come, preventing other users from being able to invest and use the railroad. This would make it impossible for Ivanhoe Liberia/HPX to proceed with our project, depriving Liberia of much-needed investment. The National Legislature acknowledges this very issue within the MDA. In December 2021 a Joint Committee of the House concluded that this MDA would give AML a “complete monopoly” over the Yekepa-Buchanan railway and port.
Why does AML want to make it difficult or nearly impossible for others to invest and use the railroad when it would ultimately be beneficial for AML and for Liberia to share costs among many users? Why does AML want to deprive Liberia from the benefits of a major and immediate expansion of the Yekepa-Buchanan infrastructure corridor, which would make it one of the largest in West Africa? We simply do not understand.
We have proposed to the Government of Liberia that it should strongly consider engaging with AML and other potential users, including us, to agree on terms for a fair and non-discriminatory multiuser access agreement which would allow the expansion investments to start immediately. We have been ready to do this for many months and AML has refused to engage. The ball is now in AML’s court. It is up to AML to explain to the Liberian people why they are willing to deprive them of such necessary and valuable additional infrastructure investment.