Liberia: ArcelorMittal Needs to Be Seriously Checked and Monitored to Ensure Its Environmental Propriety

The new management of Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  under the leadership of its recently appointed Board Chair, Rupert Marshall, has a very serious challenge on its hands in keeping the global steel giant, ArcelorMittal, in check as regards environmental propriety.

Only recently, the EPA levied fines totaling US$110,000 against the company’s Liberia operations for several infractions, including water pollution in Nimba County. 

What is water pollution?  It is the contamination or spoiling of a nation’s water resources by releasing or discharging extremely harmful substances into creeks, rivers, and streams, causing serious damage to water resources. 

While inflicting this atrocity on Liberia, the company is being sued and penalized for its practice of environmental pollution, as several of the company’s mining operations in Canada, the United States, and South Africa have recently been fined or subjected to other regulatory or legal action.

As recently as December 2021, the steel giant’s Canadian subsidiary was found guilty on more than 90 counts related to incidents that took place between 2011 and 2013 at its Mount Wright iron ore mine near Fermont in Canada.  Harmful spills, “false or misleading” declarations, incomplete reports and omission of tests were among the charges.

A Quebec, Canada court ruled that ArcelorMittal committed a series of environmental violations 10 years ago at the Mont-Wright mining complex on the North Shore. 

And now, EPA, after conducting a hearing with the company at which ArcelorMittal  acknowledged the violations and stipulated remedies, has found ArcelorMittal liable for “deliberate and unlawful discharge of raw sewage into nearby rivers and wetlands, resulting in ecological damage.”

The company, according to EPA also failed to implement corrective actions dated July 27, 2021 mandating that it obtain an environmental permit for the operation of its wastewater treatment plant and related discharge.

With such a dismal record, as one industry observer noted, ArcelorMittal is in no position to threaten legal action against Liberia simply because the House of Representatives, “in its infinite wisdom,” called on the Executive Branch of the Liberian government to renegotiate the terms of the third AML MDA to ensure that issues such as these and others that impact the public are fully addressed. 

We would like to make it crystal clear that this newspaper, the Daily Observer, is not in the business of discouraging or being harmful to businesses in Liberia.  Indeed, it has always been our enduring commitment and duty to encourage business entities in our country, because we know that they create much-needed jobs for our people and help sustain our economic equilibrium (balance, stability). 

It is, however, also our sacred duty to ensure that companies operating within our borders, local and foreign alike, follow the rules of propriety (respectability, decency).  

In this sacred endeavor, we are not alone.  The reader has seen from above in this very Editorial that other countries, including Canada and South Africa, have taken measures against companies, including Mittal, to keep them in line with corporate propriety (decency, respectability). 

 This is the duty of a sovereign nation—to protect its national integrity and to ensure that no one—not even a native-born national or anyone else—takes undue advantage of the country.

For this reason, our prisons are filled with people, nationals and foreigners alike, who have exceeded (gone beyond) the bar of correctness, decency or legality, or propriety.  

Mittal and all other companies are called to conduct themselves decently and properly to continue to enjoy respectability and a warm welcome within the country.

There are many foreign entities within the country and indigenous (home-grown) ones, too, which enjoy a high degree of appreciation, respectability, and welcome because they have earned these accolades (honors, tributes). 

ArcelorMittal is one of them, too, because Liberians and foreigners alike generally appreciate its contribution to the economy.  But this appreciation gives no one the right to behave with impropriety (indecency, bad taste).

To continue to enjoy the public’s appreciation and welcome, all companies are called to exercise restraint (self-control).  The continued protection of the environment is an important aspect of this restraint.