Liberia: Pres. Weah Discloses Relationship with Solway Mining Company amid Standoff with ArcelorMittal

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MONROVIA – The standoff between Solway Mining Company and ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) over the alleged encroachment of Solway on AML’s concession area is yet to be decided by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, however, President Weah says he would prioritize Liberian businesses as he and the owners of Solway “are my family, we lived together in the same house so you can see they’re my family and I have their interest”.

While in Nimba for the cabinet retreat, President Weah told the Nimbaians who were concerned about the consummation of the Mineral Development Agreement with Solway that he has asked the Solway and AML to sit together and sort out their differences.

“I met ArcelorMittal, we sat down and the first thing I told them was Liberians would not be spectators in their own country. So, up to today, the Solway and this issue is on the table; the government is looking into it and the people that have the Solway – the Liberian boy, and the Indian guy, they need to sit and talk, this is business, they need to sit and talk so they can agree because government also needs to move forward,” Pres. Weah said.

According to him, Solway is “my interest”, therefore, would be a solution to the stalemate.

The Stalemate

Solway raised eyebrows in July 2020 when Emmanuel Sherman, Deputy Minister of Mines & Energy, introduced the company to the people of Nimba County and to the President of their traditional chiefs, Peter Barlon.

Prior to that ceremony, ArcelorMittal, in a communication dated June 26, 2020, directly confronted Solway Mining Inc. informing them of the alleged encroachment on their concession area.

In the communication, titled “Unlawful entry and exploration activities in ArcelorMittal Liberia’s concession area”, ArcelorMittal stated:

“For and on behalf of ArcelorMittal Liberia Ltd. (“AML”), please be informed that Solway Mining Inc. (“Solway Mining”) has unlawfully entered upon and engaged in exploration activities in an area overlapping the concession area in Nimba County granted by the Government of Liberia (the “Government”) to AML pursuant to the Mineral Development Agreement dated August 17, 2005, as amended (“the AML MDA”).” The communication was signed by Mr. Scott Lowe, the General Manager at the time.

Pres. Weah tells Nimbaians “Solway people are my family… They’re my friends, we lived together in the same house so it tells you I’m in their interest…”

The communication continues: “As you cannot possibly ignore, AML has been granted exclusive mining rights by the Government on the former LAMCO concession pursuant to the MDA. The MDA and each of its amendments, as you should be aware, have been duly ratified by the Liberian Legislature and have the force of law. The MDA includes the exclusive right for AML to conduct, among other activities, the exploration, development and production of mining products in the Concession Area, as this term is defined in the MDA.”

The company is said to be a subsidiary of Solway Industries Limited that has been licensed by the Liberia Government to undertake iron ore exploration to ascertain the existence, location, quantity and quality of commercial value of deposits in the exploration area that covers approximately 56 Sq.Km defined by the UTM coordinates of Spatial Reference.

The granting of an exploration license to the company by the Liberian Government means Solway will explore Mount Mbelle located in Zor Clan, Nimba Third Electoral District and Mount Detton in Sehyi Clan, Nimba Second Electoral District; two areas where significant portions fall within the  ArcelorMittal Concession Areas, according to the company.

The Russian-linked Liberian Ownership

Solway is claiming Liberian ownership but very little is known about the owners.

Mr. Boimah Alford Morgan is listed as the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), while Theo Dennis is listed as Comptroller.

While President Weah presents the owners of Solway as Liberians, a FrontPageAfrica investigation in 2020 revealed that the company is being bankrolled by a Russian multi-billionaire, Aleksandr Bronstein, who has strong ties to the inner circle of Russian President, Vladmir Putin, including Alexey Mordashov, owner of the failed Putu Mining Operations in Liberia.

The Russian publication, Kommersant.ru, in 2020 reported that the Solway Group is run by the Estonian oligarch, Aleksandr Bronstein, and his son, Dan Bronstein.

Aleksandr Bronstein, according to the publication is a business magnate who founded Solway Investment in 2002, after chairing the board of directors of Siberian-Urals Aluminum Company, a Russian bauxite and aluminum producer that merged in 2007 with its main competitor in the country, Rusal, and Swiss trader Glencore.

Said the report: “Aleksandr Bronstein has also been the head of several mining companies, after starting his career at Estonia’s Ministry of Forestry and Environment. He is reputedly well connected in the business and political world of both Estonia and Russia. Born in St. Petersburg to a family that left Russia to escape anti-Semitism, Aleksandr Bronstein is heavily involved in philanthropic activities for the Jewish community and has served as vice-president of the World Jewish Congress.”

The report states that Solway Investment’s arrival in Liberia marked its return to the African continent, as the company has held interests in Kaminex, which owns copper permits in the DRC. “The Liberian subsidiary has been run since last November by Morgan Alford Warmiller, who previously worked in import-export to Liberia and neighboring countries such as Ivory Coast, notably for EU Commodities and West Africa Rubber Traders. Several other employees of the company, including geologists and executive director, Ben Davies, worked for Aureus Mining when the company operated the New Liberty gold mine in Liberia. Galia Nezhinsky, a crisis communication specialist, oversees part of the group’s public relations.”

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