ArcelorMittal-Liberia has been criticized by members of the House of Representatives for its failure to fully implement the terms and conditions in the amended agreement signed between the Republic of Liberia and the iron ore miner.
Grand Bassa County District # 4 Representative Jeh Byron Browne said the company is yet to live up to some provisions of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA).
According to Rep. Browne, the company has declined to reconstruct assets of erstwhile LAMCO as provided in the concession agreement, but is instead constructing prefabricated houses in Grand Bassa and Nimba counties, suggesting no plan for the improvement of the concession areas and the lives of its employees.
In a letter to Speaker Atty. J. Emmanuel Nuquay, which was read during last Tuesday’s session, Browne said the damaged hospital facility in Yekepa, Nimba County, has neither been renovated nor equipped, saying that the company has abandoned the entire medical facility and renovated only a few dwelling units in the loop, among others.
In a related development, the Grand Bassa lawmaker also noted that the 1959 Concession Agreement between the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC) and the Liberian Government is yet to be revisited.
“Since 1959, the terms and conditions in the agreement are yet to be revisited so as to meet current day reality which puts the nation and those residing in the areas at a great disadvantage,” Rep. Browne said. He added that the company continues to exploit the nation using its 1959 agreement.
Rep. Browne indicated that it is sad to note that since 1959, the LAC agreement has not been revisited, thus putting the company in the proper position not to fulfill its corporate social responsibility to citizens affected by pollution from the company’s operation areas in Grand Bassa County.
According to him, the community in which LAC is operating has been denied social benefits, drinking water, and students in the area usually sit on floors to learn.
“For the purpose of this letter, I respectively draw your attention, as I did on the other occasion to the 1959 Concession Agreement signed between the Government of the Republic of Liberia and the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC), parts of which provisions do not conform to current realities,” Representative Browne noted.
He said since the restoration of peace to Liberia in 2003, followed by the elections of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2005 and 2011, the government has reviewed and renegotiated several agreements, but efforts to review the LAC agreement were largely made possible through Executive and Legislative interplays.
Sadly, the Bassa lawmaker noted that people living in his district where the company operates continue to suffer the flaws of the antiquated agreement currently existing between LAC and the Liberian government.
“The social benefits of viable concessions will continue to elude my people, as long as proper actions are not taken to subject the current LAC Agreement to review or renegotiation,” he pointed out.
Following Representative Browne’s presentation, many lawmakers were astonished to note that since 1959, the LAC agreement is yet to be revisited.
“What is more saddening, fellow colleagues is that the Government of Liberia is collecting US$0.6 annually per acre; whereas there are budget shortfalls and even the citizens who are direct owners of the land are paying more to the government than the company,” Rep. Brown added.
Both concessionaires have assets in Grand Bassa County. The LAC concession area is located in Grand Bassa County District #4, which has been represented by Browne since 2008. While the concerns raised by him have existed before he came to the House of Representatives, it is not clear why he is raising them only now, in an election year.
Howbeit, the Lower House unanimously agreed that the National Bureau of Concessions, as well as the Ministries of Lands, Mines & Energy and Agriculture appear before the House Plenary on Tuesday, May 9, to discuss the ArcelorMittal and LAC concession agreements.