Liberia: Finance Minister Provides Reasons for Taking HPX US$30m ahead of Ratification of Agreement

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MONROVIA – Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, has told members of the Senate that the Liberian government was constrained to accept the US$30 million offer from HPX as signing fee because the government was faced with the challenge of raising civil servants’ salaries for a month at the time.

Minister Tweah made the disclosure on Monday when he appeared before the Senate with other officials of the Ministry and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

“The Government could fall behind in salary by one month if the ArcelorMittal risk was not addressed by the HPX US$30 million,” Minister Tweah told Senators.

Their appearance became necessary after some Senators including Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon demanded an explanation for the inclusion of a promised US$30 million in the recast Budget.

HPX is a concession awaiting Legislative ratification. Their interest is to manage the rail between the republic of Guinea and the Liberian government for the sole purpose of transporting iron ore from Guinea to the port of Buchanan for exportation.

In the proposed recast budget, the Legislature is being asked to recast the 2022 National Budget in order to remove the US$25 million contributed by ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) as a result of the need to ratify its Mineral Development Agreement No. 3. AML’s contribution would be replaced it with an expected US$30 million resulting from the signing of a framework agreement between the Executive and HPX – a mining company opting to use the Yekepa-Buchanan railway to export iron ore from Guinea.

This means the legislature would be dropping an already secured US$25 million for US$30 million for a concession agreement that is yet to come before them.

The HPX is reportedly calling for the management of the rail from Guinea to Buchanan Port.

“They have brought it to us to remove the ArcelorMittal US$25million and replace it with the expected US$30 million from a framework document signed between the Executive Branch of Government and HPX,” Senator Prince Moye Co-chair on the Ways, Means and Finance Committee stated.

He made the disclosure in session last Tuesday.

In April this year, FrontPageAfrica reported on the ‘secret’ signing of a framework agreement between HPX and the Government as the possible reason behind the stalling of ArcelorMittal’s third MDA.

The signed amended and restated Framework Agreement with the HPX confirms the Liberian government’s principles for HPX’s non-discriminatory access to Liberian rail and port infrastructure and identifies HPX’s requirements for the future evacuation of ore from the Guinean Nimba Iron Ore Project.

The Framework Agreement, which is immediately effective, also sets out a timetable for detailed negotiations and the implementation of a definitive Concession and Access Agreement for HPX’s infrastructure requirements.

As per the Agreement, HPX looks forward to having the right to extend the railway facility from Yekepa to the Guinea-Liberia border and have access to the Yekepa-Port of Buchanan rail.

HPX group companies Ivanhoe Liberia announced over the weekend that “the Government of Liberia will grant HPX usage of the Infrastructure Corridor in accordance with its rights and obligations under its current Mineral Development Agreement with ArcelorMittal, and will seek to resolve with ArcelorMittal the technical and commercial terms for HPX’s usage of the Shared Infrastructure in accordance with that Mineral Development Agreement.

Our high-level source who has been reviewing signed copies of the framework document points out that the document appears to have been signed between Saturday, March 26 and Monday, March 28, 2022.  While the title page carries a date of March 30, our source is certain that the HPX Framework document was signed much earlier than that.

The Framework Document, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has obtained revealed that the Liberian government had been receiving payments from HPX Ivanhoe Liberia and the government failed to make public pronouncements on the payment. The Liberian government on December 23, 2019 received the first payment of US$7 million for the railway deal, according to the Framework Agreement.

The Framework Agreement referred to this upfront payment as “deposit”.

“It is recorded that Ivanhoe Liberia has paid to the Government a payment of US$7 million on 23 December 2019, which is referred to as the Deposit in clause 7.1 of the 2019 Framework Agreement and hereafter referred to as the “Up Front Payment 1”; the Framework Agreement states.

It continues: “the Up Front Payment 1 is no longer currently due for reimbursement and upon an event of default, the Government shall repay the Up Front Payment 1 in accordance with Clause 3.2 below; and

“nothing in this Agreement shall affect or prejudice any claim or demand whatsoever which any Party has against the other Party under clause 7 (Deposit Payment) of the 2019 Framework Agreement as amended and restated in this Clause 2.3(b); and

Billed as “Up Front Payment 2”, HPX is to pay the government US$30 million.

The payment line of the framework document specifically and categorically states that payment will be made “…with evidence of SWIFT transfers made within 4 business days on or before 3/31/22” 

The Framework Agreement states: “a payment of US$30 million (the “Up Front Payment 2”) within 4 Business Days of execution of this Agreement, with evidence of SWIFT transfers made on or before March 31, 2022; and

“a payment of US$25 million upon the date falling 10 Business Days after the date on which the Concession and Access Agreement is fully effective and legally binding and the HPX Group (and/or its nominees) has unimpeded legal and physical access to all of the Infrastructure Corridor as is required to implement the HPX Project, to the satisfaction of the HPX Group (the “Up Front Payment 3”).”

The signing of the HPX Framework Agreement comes in the wake of the rejection of ArcelorMittal’s third MDA amendment which the House of Representatives has sent back to the Executive for renegotiation.

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