Liberia: Statement on the meeting with some Grand Bassa Residents and Government Representatives
Buchanan ─ The meeting of Tuesday, May 23, 2023, organized by the Government of Liberia through the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Mines and Energy, the National Bureau of Concession, and local authorities of Grand Bassa, provided another opportunity to directly engage with a cross-section of citizens of Grand Bassa. Most of the attendees voiced their concerns and ArcelorMittal was prepared to provide a detailed explanation regarding the demands of a concentrator in Bassa.
ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) has clarified that a more detailed plan with approvals from the Environmental Protection Agency recommended the iron ore concentrator plants to be located near the mines, so that the effluent tailings could be managed near the mine site, rather than exposing the sensitive marine eco-system in Buchanan to the potential impact of a mining operation. The feasibility studies that ArcelorMittal Liberia conducted also show that it is technically efficient and cost-effective to locate the concentrator near the source of the iron ore in Nimba County.
It is unfortunate that despite these clarifications, a few individuals continued to slow down the company’s operations by blocking the railroad and issuing threats.
At the meeting, Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf denounced the use of violence in seeking redress to issues and urged the people of Grand Bassa to tread on the path of dialogue and peaceful engagement within the confines of the law to express their grievances.
Minister Sirleaf concluded that a special committee consisting of the concerned parties and authorities of Grand Bassa be set up to develop a common agenda to engage with ArcelorMittal Liberia through the Inter-ministerial Concession Committee to achieve positive results for all.
The advice of Minister Sirleaf was widely received by those in attendance. Participants at the meeting included civil society representatives, religious leaders, and local community groups.
AML maintains that the section being referenced from the MDA is a tentative development plan that was submitted when Mittal Steel initially entered Liberia.
As part of its Phase II expansion, the layout of the revised operation has also relocated all rail maintenance facilities to Buchanan in contrast with LAMCO, which had these in Nimba County. Additionally, to help compensate for the job balance with Nimba, the company is building an automatic rail unloading facility, stockpile with stackers and reclaimers, and undertaking a major expansion of the Buchanan Port. A Vocational Training Center (in Buchanan) is also under consideration to help train the large number of technical employees that will be required.
ArcelorMittal Liberia is also producing a high-grade concentrate, which requires approximately 25 million tons annually of raw ore to produce 15 million tons of concentrated product. Transporting the raw ore to Buchanan would also consume valuable rail capacity that is currently in demand by other users.