As doubts brew over the fate of a stretch of road from Ganta to Yekepa, Nimba County Senator Thomas S. Grupee has clarified that there is still hope for its pavement.
Senator Grupee, in an interview with the Daily Observer on December 17 in Sanniquellie during the second graduation convocation of the Nimba County Community College (NCCC), said he is disappointed about the delay of the pavement of the road.
However, he told the Daily Observer that things have been worked out and there’s hope that the project will recommence very soon.
According to the Senator, ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) had a “gentleman’s agreement” with the Government and people of Liberia that does not form part of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA).
He said delays in construction of the road came when AML said it could no longer invest the US$43 million promised for the road’s pavement because of the drop in the price of iron ore.
Senator Grupee said the cost of abandoning the road as a result of AML’s decision would be more than continuing the project, “and therefore, we have to take money from our Highway Fund to continue the project. The work was interrupted during the rainy season, but now the project is on course.”
He disclosed that the Liberian government has invested US$13 million in the road project to continue until the economic condition affecting ArcelorMittal Liberia can improve to enable the company to resume its promise.
The government’s investment, he said, has reawakened the construction company, Campagine Sahelienne D’Enterprises (CSE), to continue the project.
He meanwhile noted that the price of iron ore that once went down to US$30 per ton has climbed up to US$80, which he said is a “good sign” that by next year the steel giant will be able to make good on its promise.
As to whether the government would demand for reimbursement from AML, he answered in the negative and said the government has already made the commitment to continue the project whether AML comes in or not.
He stressed that the company’s initial commitment cannot be used against it but noted that the Liberian government anticipates a gesture in good faith from the company for the pavement of the road.
The MDA between the Liberian government and ArcelorMittal Liberia indicates that the steel company will provide a financial report on the quantity of iron ore produced and sold every calendar quarter, and a report on all operations and activities at the end of each financial year.
It will also construct, maintain and operate health facilities in the concession area with modern equipment and with internationally accepted procedures.
According to the agreement, AML is also to provide US$75 million over the 25 years of the agreement to support socioeconomic development in the country.
It is also to provide an annual social contribution of US$3 million to be managed and disbursed for the benefit of communities in the counties of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa by a committee formed by the company and the government.
Within this amount, US$1.5 million is allotted to Nimba County every year for its social development.
The construction of the highway came as a gesture from ArcelorMittal Liberia to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which is not part of any legal agreement binding on the company.