There is growing concern amongst workers of ArcelorMittal and citizens of Nimba about the recent intensification of mining operations by Arcelor Mittal, since the Weah administration took seat in January this year, as to what benefits the company is leaving for the citizens and the communities at large for the mining of ore.
The movement of ore trains have increased rapidly, since Mittal began mining “Mount Gangra”, one of the virgin mountains within the concession area.
With the lack of tangible infrastructural development and after the abandonment of construction of the Ganta to Yekepa Road under the erstwhile Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration, some citizens and organizations are worrying about the benefits the county will get, if all the mountains within the concession are mined and depleted.
“What will we show to our children tomorrow, when all of these mountains within this concession are mined and depleted,” wondered P. Luogon Lah, head of the Nimba NGOs Network. “Imagine the operation at the mine appears to be intensifying, as the movement of trains have increased more rapidly than before, but where do we stand, when our stretch of road from Ganta to Yekepa cannot be paved as promised,” he said.
Some of the Liberian mine workers, who asked not want to be named, are among those worrying about the current escalation of mining operations at the newly opened Mount Gangra. There, according to them, iron ore mined from that mountain is 70% pure ore, that doesn’t require washing before shipment.
“We are not receiving our due benefits, based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement we reached with company last year. No overtime pay, our salaries do not come on time, they’ve cut down the feeding aspect,” he said.
“Despite these, the company has intensified operations at Mount Gangra, where the mountain has been mined almost to valley level,” said one of the caterpillar operators,” who requested anonymity.
These developments according to a former LAMCO employee (name withheld) are alarming and should claim the attention of the authorities. He said ArcerlorMittal has laid off many employees on grounds that the world market price of iron ore has dropped drastically, making it unprofitable to continue mining. Yet, the company has intensified ore production and are even exporting ever increasing volume of iron ore which, in his opinion, is self contradictory.
He said what the people of Nimba are now facing is no different from that experienced by the people of Bomi County, whose extremely rich deposits of iron ore have been depleted, leaving the people languishing in poverty and misery. He especially decried the influx of aliens into the country purposely to engage in illegal mining activities from which local communities do not benefit at all.
Currently, according to media reports, thousands of foreigners, mostly West Africans, are descending on the country in hunt for precious minerals especially gold. Representative George Boley from Grand Gedeh county has expressed alarm at the growing presence of hundreds of illegal miners and the immeasurable damage their activities are causing to the environment.
According to Representative Boley, the illegal miners are destroying the forests, poisoning rivers, creeks and other water resources with dangerous chemicals which they use to extract gold. According to him, the situation is alarming and because nothing is being done about it. He said he decided to raise the matter before the House plenary with the view to having the legislative body take corrective action.
It is however not known when the body is going to act and what form their action is going to take.