Yekepa, once Liberia’s most popular mining town under the Liberia America Mining Company (LAMCO) is yet to recover from the civil war 10 years after the world steel giant, ArcelorMittal, took over the concession.
When the Daily Observer visited the town recently, it was found to be nearly overtaken by bush. Even the renovated camps occupied by ArcelorMittal staff are also overrun by vegetation.
Area F, which was the residential location for expatriates and once boasted an Olympic size swimming pool, is mostly in ruins. The dense foliage and destroyed buildings make it difficult to believe that these were once habitable buildings and structures.
The guesthouse area, which had been renovated, is now deserted, leaving it to be reclaimed by the bush. It was among other facilities in Yekepa that was renovated when ArcelorMittal took over the concession ten years ago. But the recent decline in the development of the concession town is blamed on the drop in the price of iron ore on the world market, which caused many, including those in the camp, to lose their jobs through a redundancy exercise.
The Area F clubhouse, where senior staff and guests were entertained, is deserted and is now being used as a police barrack, and is now occupied by a contingent of ERU or PSU officers.
Areas Ea, Eb, Eu, as well as other camps, are literally bushes, despite the presence of workers.
The situation in the concession area has gone beyond most job seekers’ expectations, some workers revealed. Many said they thought ArcelorMittal was going to bring the mining town back to its prewar status, but are disappointed that most of the camps have vanished.
“This company spent millions of United States dollars to import prefabricated houses but many of the camps are still in ruin,” said Emmanuel Suomie of Yekepa. “If the money used to buy these imported houses were used to renovate these camps, all the camps would have been rehabilitated.”
Safe drinking water remains one of the problems faced by residents of Yekepa, with wells and a nearby creek as the only sources of water.
Despite the lack of meaningful development in Yekepa, the Daily Observer has learned that ArcelorMittal is anticipating opening another virgin mountain within its concession area.
ArcelorMittal Liberia has begun the process of resettling those whose properties are around the mountain to be mined.