Liberia: US$800m ArcelorMittal Investment in Limbo? Senate May Not Ratify, But…
Monrovia – FrontPageAfrica has reliably learnt in the past 24 hours that the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal (AML) have reached a deadlock in a marathon negotiation to ratify the 3rd Amendment that is currently at the national legislature. While the House of Representatives have passed, multiple sources in the Senate have hinted to FPA that the upper house is leaning toward not concurring with the lower house, suggesting that the amendment may likely be tabled or returned to the Executive.
“We have already ramped up the renovation and rehabilitation of infrastructures in our concession which is consistent with our belief that our employees are our most valued asset. Refurbishing Housing remains one of the major priorities for us. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to enhance our refurbishment initiatives and consider other approaches to upscale our operational areas.”A source from ArcelorMittal, Liberia speaking on condition of anonymity Friday
Both government and AML sources are being tightlipped on the sticking issue threatening to thwart the amendment.
FPA has gathered that the deadlock concerns request from the Government of Liberia that AML brings additional US 25$million to address long term unresolved housing challenges in project affected counties of Nimba, Grand Bassa and Bong. Citizens and critics of the 3rd amendment have argued that AML over the last 15 years have failed to develop housing for workers, and to address major social and environmental concerns in its project areas and that Mittal was not likely to improve these areas under the 3rd amendment.
In response to citizens’ concerns the Government reached out to AML to discuss a housing and social benefit-specific program and to request additional USD 25 million as part of one-off payment under to agreement. It can be recalled at a Senate Hearing on the 3rd Amendment that several senators called for more resources from AML and for AML to do more in the project affected counties.
Sources close to FPA hinted that senior Government officials and senior officials of the AML were engaged in a discussion on the need for the company to pony up additional US 25 million to build more than 1500 homes in Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa, build hospitals and address environment and other challenges in project affected counties. On Thursday evening, AML officials requested more time to discuss with senior management of the company on a way forward.
FPA has learned that senior management has reported back today Friday that the company cannot pay the US 25 million, which means the deal may not be ratified.
FPA is following this breaking story and its implication on the budget since some USD 55 million was to be paid by the company in the current budget and in the 2022 national budget. If both sides do not reach an amicable breakthrough on the Government’s demand for additional resources for the projected affected counties, this may have serious implication on national budget performance.
Contacted late Friday, AML officials declined to comment on the issue but a source, privy to the discussions but not authorized to comment publicly on the matter told FPA: “We have already ramped up the renovation and rehabilitation of infrastructures in our concession which is consistent with our belief that our employees are our most valued asset. Refurbishing Housing remains one of the major priorities for us. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to enhance our refurbishment initiatives and consider other approaches to upscale our operational areas.”
The reported deadlock comes more than 24 hours after the lower house of the national legislature, through a majority vote, has passed the Mineral Development Agreement between Liberia and Arcelor Mittal Liberia (AML).
The House’s decision followed a motion by Rep. Dixon Sebo (District #16, Montserrado County), which was triggered by a set of recommendations from its Joint Committee on Investment and Concession, ways, Means & Finance, Judiciary, Lands, Mines & energy and Environment, calling on for its passage.
However, the Joint Committee made several major changes to the agreement submitted by President Weah.
A notable one borders on the ownership right of the railroads and port of Buchanan.
According to the Joint Committee, Article 3 of the proposed Amendment called for the company to have exclusive rights over Liberia’s railroads and the Port of Buchanan; something the Joint committee sees as a complete monopoly of the government’s two major infrastructures.
In the amendment, the Committee called on the government to take ownership of the Railroad, Buchanan Iron Ore Port and related Infrastructure. It called for the infrastructure to be structured, regulated, expanded and managed on a non-discriminatory multi-user basis for the benefit of all eligible applicants and the Republic of Liberia.