Lands, Mines & Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo has assured the Indian steel company, Arcelor Mittal, that it will operate in a secure environment in Nimba despite the recent violent activities that damaged its facilities.
Minister Sendolo, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer in Ganta while returning from Yekepa where the company operates, confirmed that destruction was carried out; but could not exactly state the level of damage done as the assessment is not yet complete.
He said regardless of the attack and destruction of portion of the company’s facility, the Government of Liberia is doing everything to ensure that it operates in a secure environment.
He added that those in the vincinity where the company is operating will also carry on their farming activities in peace without intimidation from security personnel or anyone, as the GOL studies the root causes of the problem and takes corrective measures to prevent a recurrence.
Minister Sendolo, reacting to a question about the reasons associated with the recent violence, noted that Arcelor Mittal and the Government of Liberia signed an agreement to extract iron ore in Nimba; and that in the agreement, certain things were outlined to be done for the county and community members.
Instead of dialoging to settle prevailing problems that were emerging from the agreement, some Liberians took the law into their hands and went on to perpetrate violence against the company, destroying its facilities, he said.
The Lands, Mines & Energy Minister further noted that Government is conscious in ensuring that the extraction of iron ore in Mount Tokadi yields better fruit for all citizens in the county and communities where the operation takes place.
He said acknowledged, however, that the people of Nimba do need a better living standard and that the Government is prevailing on Arcelor Mittal to provide such a condition.
While it is essentially right for citizens of the county and communities to benefit from the resources, it is also incumbent upon them to channel their grievances through a structured, legal means and not through violence, he pointed out.
Minister Sendolo admitted that talks have been going on amidst complaints from the people of Nimba about ArcelorMittal’s activities, and as Government they are engaging the Indian company to give people of the county their just benefits.
“We know that there is a problem; and I do not want to back ArcelorMittal here that it is perfect in this agreement. However, this does not give anyone the right to carry on violence as it happened recently in the county,” Minister Sendolo asserted.
Although the Minister could not provide any piece of information on the level of destruction carried out by the aggrieved party, Nimba lawmaker Jeremiah Koung had earlier informed this newspaper that a train was set ablaze while a bridge linking Sanniquellie and Gbaapa and Zolowee was burnt.
Also, Representative Larry Younquoi of District # 8 in Nimba said that while he was in Yekepa, about two loads of looted materials from the facility were retrieved.