Operations in the mining area of Yekapa came to standstill Monday, February 3, after residents of the affected communities within ArcelorMittal’s Concessional areas blocked the roads leading up to Mount Takadeh, where the mining of iron ore is taking place.
The citizens’ action comes after the alleged failure of ArcelorMittal’s management to pay damages to them for properties and the alleged refusal of the company to employ members of their communities.
In four separate accounts, the locals stated that based on the agreement reached with steel giant, the company was supposed to pay for all the crops that left within the concession, employ the citizens, relocate farmers and mining land where several alluvial miners were asked to evacuate.
Our Nimba County correspondent said the citizens’ action on Monday hampered every activity of ArcelorMittal for several hours.
Local authorities, including the county Superintendent, police’s Emergency Response Unit (ERU), and UNMIL had to move to calm the citizens.
ArcelorMittal’s operations at Mount Tokadah in Nimba County are presently affecting several communities including Gbarpa, Zolowee, Makinto, Sehyi Geh, among others.
It appears the process of paying all those affected is taking too long, a situation that citizens cannot bear anymore.
The locals had long been threatening to halt ArcelorMittal’s operations if their plights were not met in a timely fashion.
In 2012, they issued a 15-count letter accusing ArcelorMittal of refusing to give them compensation for the destruction of their crops, among others.
However, the communications manager of ArcelorMittal said that the issue was laid to rest as the company had committed to paying those affected within two to three week.,
Mrs. Hesta Baker Pearson, who described the farmers’ action as peaceful, said ArcelorMittal had paid most of the miners including some property owners.
She said the delay in paying over 600 farmers was due to the failure of the farmers to open their bank accounts. According to her, all payments are done through the depositing of checks into that person’s account.
“We were able to pay those who opened their accounts, including many of the miners. For those who were unable to open their accounts, we have decided to pay them directly through the bank, but they have to carry their ID cards,” she added.
Mrs. Pearson reiterated that the issue had been put to rest and all the parties involved were satisfied with the new agreement.
With the issue of employment, she said the company cannot employ everybody at once, and added that during the departure of Engineer and Planner last December, most of their local employees, which make of 90 percent of the citizens from the affected communities, were absorbed into ArcelorMittal as employees.
ArcelorMittal is building a washing plant opposite Gbarpa Town taking the entire left from the road leading to Mount Takada going to Yekapa from Sanniquellie.
The parcel of land contains a rich diamond mine, where alluvial mining has been going on since diamonds were discovered in Gbarpa in the 50s.
Some of the mining claims, according to some miners, are rich and it is there where mining has been carried on for generations.
It is believed that ArcelorMittal paid US$ 17,000 for each claim to the owner.