Pres. Weah Appoints Foreign Minister Kemayah to Head Committee to Mitigate and Resolve ArcelorMittal Third MDA Amendment Stalemate￼
Monrovia – In a bid to find an amicable solution to the ArcelorMittal Third Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) stalemate, President George Weah has set up a Special Presidential Committee.
The commissioning of the committee by President Weah followed a meeting with Mr. Lakshmi Mittal, Executive Chairman of ArcelorMittal, in Doha, Qatar, where both men held discussions centered around resolving all outstanding issues relating to the revised MDA to be signed between the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal (Liberia) Ltd, according to a dispatched from Doha.
Those appointed to the Special Presidential Committee are Amb. Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dean of the Cabinet as Chairman; Mr. Emanuel L. Shaw II, Advisor to the President, Member; and Cllr. Archibald Bernard, Legal Advisor to the President, Member, and Secretary to the Committee, the release further noted.
Accordingly, the Special Presidential Committee, which appointment takes immediate effect is tasked with the responsibility to, on behalf of the Government of Liberia, work with an ad-hoc committee that is to be established by Mr. Mittal, to resolve all outstanding issues relating to the MDA.
The President is said to have “mandated the Committee to meet with and engage any and all relevant authorities of the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal and any other stakeholders, either individually or collectively, whenever and wherever deemed appropriate in the sole discretion of the Committee, in order to ensure the finalization and implementation of the above-mentioned MDA within a reasonable time frame, and report back to his Office with its findings, recommendations, and advice.”
“The Liberian Leader has further directed the Special Presidential Committee to work assiduously and collaboratively in the discharge of its duties and responsibilities, in order to find a durable solution that will have due regard to the legitimate interest of all parties, while always upholding and protecting the supreme national interest of the Government and People of Liberia,” the release added.
‘Protecting the supreme national interest’
The meeting between President Weah and Mr. Mittal, coupled with the appointment of the Special Presidential Committee is the latest move by the Liberian Government and world’s leading steel company to salvage the much-heralded landmark deal which has suffered multiple setbacks in the Liberian Legislature.
While it was highly anticipated to sail easily through the Legislature, the agreement did not pass. In march this year, the House backtracked on its decision and rejected Amendment No. 3 to the MDA and returned it to the Executive saying, if the agreement becomes law, it would not serve the national interest.
The decision to return the Agreement to the Executive came about, after the House and the Liberian Senate failed to settle their differences over the draft Agreement that had spent months languishing at the Legislature. It was initially passed by the House and forwarded to the Senate for concurrence after several scrutiny.
The Senate did not concur with the House in ratifying the draft MDA on grounds that it did not address most of the concerns raised by residents of the affected communities. It then proposed the setting up of a conference committee to settle their differences before ratifying.
But the House rejected and voted unanimously to send the agreement back to the Executive for renegotiation; leaving their Senate counterparts in limbo.
Moments after the rejection of the ArcelorMittal deal, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers described the decision taken by the House plenary as the greatest achievement to humanity.
“All that we do is that we seek the best interest of the Liberian people. In the wisdom of Plenary, they have decided to address the interest of our people. I think this is one of the greatest achievements of humanity — to serve our people selflessly,” he said.
He added: “Our concern is the act of beneficiation, value added to the process. So that is what we have catalogued and felt that in no way we can have the concession agreement being entertained here without the Executive not renegotiating.”
President Weah, who had earlier praised the deal as in the best interest of the country, accepted the House’s demand and announced the authorization of the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee (IMCC) to engage Arcelor Mittal for the resubmission of an amendment that will be in the interest of all parties.
The announcement was contained in a communication President Weah sent to the House of Representatives through Speaker Bhofal Chambers and read in plenary on Thursday.
He stated: “I have directed the members of the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee (IMCC), established by law for this purpose to review and analyze the points made in your letter to further confer with you and then to report their findings to me for further actions. Thereafter, I shall authorize the IMCC to hold discussions with Arcelor Mittal for the resubmission of an amendment that fairly satisfies the needs of that company while also upholding the national interests of Liberia.”
What are the Contentions?
On September 9, 2021, the Government of Liberia through the Executive and AML signed the completed negotiations for the AML 3rd amended agreement . The agreement was hailed by both parties as a win-win situation as it would lead to a US$800 million direct benefit to the government and paved the way for the expansion of the company’s mining and logistics operations in Liberia and allow ArcelorMittal to significantly ramp up production of premium iron ore, generating a significant number of new jobs and wider economic benefits for Liberia.
To become law, it was sent to the Legislature by the President for ratification. But some of the provisions in the draft agreement did not go down well with the lawmakers. Following series of consultative engagements with residents of the affected counties, the company officials and government negotiators, the House made major changes to the draft and sent to the Senate for concurrence.
The agreement, as submitted by the Executive, contained clauses that grant the company exclusive rights to the Yekepa to Buchanan railroad and Port of Buchanan, as captured in article 3, section 3(f) of AML’s third amendment to the MDA.
Article 3, Section F of the revised MDA, entitled, ‘The concessionaire’s capacity as Railroad Operator’, gives AML “the exclusive right to continue to serve as the operator of the Railroad during the term and any extended term of this agreement…”
Section F(2) puts AML “in charge of daily operations for the benefit of each and all Users in accordance with Railroad System Operating Principles and the Multi-User Agreement (when it becomes effective).”
Speaker Chambers, rejecting these clauses, said “This gives you the indication that the 54th Legislature, members of the House of Representatives, are supererogatory individuals. And they have done what is good for the country’s interest. It’s not one person. It is the whole body that has decided to take this high ground.”
In his letter, the President agreed with the House on the multi-user access of the rail and the port.
He said: “My Government remains fully committed to a fair multi-user access to and use of the railroad corridor from Yekepa to the port of Buchanan, and to the port of Buchanan itself, both by other Liberian enterprises and those from the sister Republic of Guinea. Such access and use will be beneficial to both nations and enhance the goals and purposes of the Economic Community of West Africa States and the Mano River Union to both of which Liberia is a member as is the sister Republic of Guinea.”