Liberia: GoL Struggling to Justify AML US$800M Deal?
– Legislature demands GOL provide compliance reports on ArcelorMittal as Finance Minister admits problems with the deal
Both houses of the Liberian Legislature have begun separate hearings into the third amendment of the ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) mineral development agreement (MDA), citing relevant authorities to give justification as to whether or not the deal should be endorsed by the legislature for the next 25 years.
While they have not yet gotten to the most contentious part – who controls the Yekepa-Buchanan railway and port – there are already signs of more questions than answers. This is in spite of the urgency that President Weah has attached to the matter, that the Legislature ratify the amended agreement before December 31, 2021.
With barely four weeks to the deadline, hearings in both houses started with issues of environmental compliance. At the first public hearing into the matter by the Senate Joint Committee on Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, Concession and Investment as well as Judiciary requested for a compliance report of ArcelorMittal since the beginning of the Company’s operations in Liberia.
The invited ministries and agencies of government, which are responsible to regulate concessions and concessionaires, are expected to give a detailed explanation on the third amendment of the Arcelormittal Liberia agreement, to the tune of US$800 million. The committee is also requesting an audit report so as to put the Senate in an informed position to either ratify the new agreement or not.
The hearing, held in the Senate Annex Chambers, was intended for the relevant Government institutions to explain reasons why the Liberian Senate should ratify the US$800 million concession deal for the next 25 years. The Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler Murray, informed the Joint Committee that ArcelorMittal Liberia wants to organically grow its iron ore mining project from the planned 15 million tons per annum (mtpa) to at least 30 mtpa over the next decade.
For his part, Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, told the Joint Committee that the expansion will create massive revenue benefits to the Government of Liberia including additional investment and job creation and also make Liberia one of the largest iron ore exporting countries in the world.
Minster Tweah admitted that the deal may not be as 100 percent, but the government has been on the back of the company for improvements, and asserted that the company has been paying its financial obligation to the government.
He added that if the Arcelormittal US$800 million amendment is not ratified by December 31, 2021, the government will experience constraints as the company will not pay the US$30 Million up front as promised; at which time the government will seek another means to pay its workers.
For his part, the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, re-echoed that the 3rd Amendment to the MDA is intended to ensure that the U$800 Million Arcelormittal expansion project, if ratified, there will be further expansion of the railway for other usage and improvement of the Port of Buchanan.
Minister Dean further reminded the Joint Committee of Article 3, section 2 of the 2007 Amended Arcelormittal Mineral Development Agreement, which states; “that the concessionaire has the right to request an extension of the term for additional 25 years upon notice to the Government, along with submission of a revised feasibility study and the MDA may be amended upon terms to be agreed to by the parties” the Minister concluded.
Meanwhile, at the House of Representatives, hearings into the 3rd Amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement of ArcelorMittal Liberia Holdings Limited and ArcelorMittal Holdings A.G. and the Government of the Republic of Liberia also started December 6, by the House Joint Committee on Investment and Concession, Judiciary and Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning with Liberia Land Authority and the Water Sanitation & Hygiene Commission appearing.
The Land Authority and WASH Commission gave their perspectives on some important issues that should be in the MDA before approval by the Legislature.
For Instance, the National WASH Commission is concerned about the free extraction, use, pollution and discharge of water. The Commission said it would like for there to be included in all concession agreements licensing for water extraction, use, pollution and discharge. The Commission said it would also like to see a waste management plan in the concession areas.
The Land Authority expressed concern about the land ownership for inhabitants and communities in concession areas.
The AML’s third amendment, featuring an US$800M Investment in Liberia, will provide the Government of Liberia with US$55 million within 19 months of ratification. The Government and ArcelorMittal Holding A.G. made and entered into a Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) on August 18, 2005, which was ratified by the Legislature, signed by the President, and printed into handbills.
The Agreement has gone through two different amendments on December 28, 2006, and January 23, 2013, respectively. The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, December 9, 2021, when the National Investment Commission, Justice, Mines & Energy will be in attendance to give their technical perspectives as well.