Liberia: Western Cluster Returns after 11 Years

Finance Minister Tweah and Minister of State McGill and Western Cluster Official inspect parts of the NPA facility.

— Set to kickstart mining operation 

Vedanta Resources PLC, the parent company of Western Cluster Liberia, has announced its intention to begin work on the iron ore deposits 11 years after acquiring the rights to the mine from Elenilto in a deal worth close to US$100 million.

This comes after Western Cluster Liberia signed an MoU with the administration of President George Weah as a means of realizing its 25-years mineral development agreement, which gives the company exclusive rights to mine 30 million tons of iron ore annually — comprising quartz, hematite, and magnetite, and other minerals.

The Western Cluster ore deposits lie in Bomi Hills, Bea Mountain, and Mano River, in Bomi County, a county known for its high poverty rate in the country.    The Bomi Hills deposit was once owned by the former Liberia Mining Company (LMC), which ceased work in 1990. Similarly, this is the case of the Mano River deposit, which was once owned by the former National Iron Ore Company (NIOC), which also ceased operation in 1990. The Bea River deposit remains unmined.

Bomi, according to Gesler Murray, the Minister of Mines and Energy, would see a boom in economic activity as a result of the Western Cluster iron mining operation.  Murray noted that the opening of the Western Cluster project would lead to the creation of jobs, though he did not state how many jobs could be expected. 

“There is a lack of economic activities in Bomi but, with the coming of Western Cluster, employment is guaranteed. It is a jumpstart towards getting to the bigger picture,” he said. “The mineral sector is the sector that has the greatest agenda to change things for this country. 

“The Western Cluster, which started more than 11-years ago, has come to fruition with the signing of an MoU. In the past, the project had been delayed due to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, and other unnamed circumstances,” the minister disclosed at a June 8 groundbreaking ceremony for the realization of the project in Bomi County.

Min. Murray added that the government has granted the company a Class “A” license to begin its mining of iron ore in line with the MDA, which calls for the exploration, mining, and marketing of iron ore.

Western Cluster Liberia is also expected to engage in importing and exporting goods and services related to the exploitation and processing of iron ore in Liberia, according to a Mach 31, 2021 audit. The Western cluster iron ore deposit was firstly acquired by Elenilto Minerals & Mining LLC, Delaware (Elenilto), who then established Western Cluster Liberia as a wholly-owned subsidiary before selling it to Sesa Goa, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources PLC, in 2011 under the administration of the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf without throwing a shovel.

Meanwhile, Senator Edwin M. Snowe of Bomi County, who initiated negotiation for Western Cluster Liberia to kickstart operation, disclosed that his people have suffered too long but, with the mine operating, things will get better.

He however warned of actions that would derail the operations of the company and lead to a lack of productivity.

“This is a long journey. When we announced this, people said we were scamming. I am happy my scam has come to reality. Something is about to happen. It will not be perfect. It will not be bread and butter. Let’s be peaceful and hold together in unity as we have gotten to this destination we have labored for over the years,” Sen. Snowe added.

“We cannot take this opportunity and throw it away. There will be problems, but be aware that it is human beings that you will be dealing with. Let’s work together. This is the strength of unity. We have been fighting as politicians in this County but we are men. We said let’s put this crap behind us and work together for the betterment of our county,” the Senator added.

In remarks, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Western Cluster, Sujal Shah, said he is glad that his company has come to do business with Liberia and is positive that there will be an “enviable impact made, provided the people of Bomi and its adjoining counties are cooperate and work in a good atmosphere.”

He recounted challenges that prevented his company from beginning its operations in 2010 and expressed optimism that there will be economic benefits for the people of Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, and the country at large.

Shah did not give a definite date for the official start of Western Cluster operations but noted that work will begin “very soon”, as they are ready and fully prepared.