By David A. Yates and Alvin Worzi
The Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) in collaboration with other institutions are expected to commence a three-day international exhibition conference on mining, gas and oil sector of the country.
The conference, which is expected to take place from Thursday, November 28 thru 30, 2019, is aimed at bringing together several government officials, investors, international industry experts, as well as mining, energy, petroleum and related technology providers and financiers to discuss challenges, highlight investment opportunities, as well as celebrate the successes of the country’s energy sector.
The conference will be held under the theme, “Exploring Opportunities and Investing in Africa’s Mining, Energy and Petroleum Industries.”
Mines and Energy Minister Gesler E. Murray told journalists at a press conference in Monrovia on Thursday, November 14, that the country is blessed with an impressive variety of mineral resources and has traditionally relied on mining, chiefly iron ore, gold, and diamonds, as a major source of income.
Minister Murray, who quoted a report released by the World Bank’s chief for Africa, said it was stated that the mining sector in Liberia grew by 7%, as compared to the non-mining sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, which declined by 3.5%.
He said the recent growth in the mining sector signals a potential to contribute significantly to employment, income generation, and infrastructure development.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, Murray said that the development of these mineral resources has significant environmental impacts that often go unnoticed.
“This is why the Ministry of Mines and Energy works in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other environmental-related institutions to ensure that operating companies uphold high environmental standards and best practices,” he added.
He said that the mining and export of iron ore have been the mainstream of the Liberian economy for more than half a century now. The mining and export of gold and diamonds, he added, have also contributed importantly to the country’s revenue stream, noting that some other known mineral deposits that require further assessment to determine their economic viability are manganese, bauxite, kyanite, barite, and phosphate.
Minister Murray added, “Our energy sector also offers enormous opportunities relating mainly to hydro and solar potentials. This is why our vision focuses on the country becoming a hub for renewable energy with the capacity to export excess generation.”
This vision, he said, is based on the fact that Liberia falls within a solar-rich region, lying between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn above the equator.
“Overall, Liberia-based load projection of its entire energy mix is estimated at 4,000 MW. Our legal, fiscal, and regulatory framework already gives investors the clarity and transparency they need. And in the spirit of a win-win partnership, Liberia is committed to providing investors with the incentives and other benefits they need to grow successful businesses,” he added.
Minister Murray said that energy access in Liberia represents a significant challenge, as the country has one of the lowest electrification rates in the world.
According to research, in 2016, an estimated 88% of the population –over four million people– did not have access to electricity, with a significant disparity in rates of access between urban (16% access) and rural (3% access) areas. The Government has set a target of increasing electrification rates to 70% in Monrovia and 35% of rural areas by 2025, and universal electricity access nationwide by 2030.
But Murray said that the country’s energy sector has huge demand for transmission and distribution of electricity to the growing population. This creates a market for any investor to meet these demands.
To support and enhance private sector participation, the government passed the 2015 Electricity Law, which serves as a legal framework basis for unbending the sector, thus creating the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission, responsible for the issuance of a license to operators and investors in electricity.
The government believes these challenges present clear investment opportunities for the private sector. One solution to stabilize the hydro dam at 88 megawatts throughout the year is to build a reservoir at the confluence of the Vai and St. Paul River, over which Mount Coffee sits.
The reservoir and cascading dams along the St. Paul River can generate as much as 500 to 800 megawatts of power.