The management of the rail link between Liberian mining sites and the port of Buchanan is still the subject of intense negotiations. To try to find a solution to this logistical and commercial disagreement, the State Department brought together in Washington executives from ArcelorMittal and the American company High Power Exploration.
The US Department of State quietly gathered the senior management of the global steel giant ArcelorMittal, which is active in the US, and billionaire Robert Friedland’s High Power Exploration (HPX) for a two-day mediation session in Washington on 8 and 9 May. It was seeking to settle the tensions and uncertainties over the management of the only railway line connecting various mines to Liberia’s port of Buchanan.
While ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) wants to remain as the line’s sole operator, the US, as well as the other miners, starting with HPX, are advocating for it to be managed by an independent, American operator. President George Weah, who will be running for a second term in October, is dragging his heels on making a decision and took tentative steps to approach ArcelorMittal through his key officials. Annoyed at the lack of decision making, Washington has for months been leaving open the threat of slapping new sanctions on members of Weah’s close entourage suspected of misappropriating funds in connection with a mining operator. For its part, HPX seems to be trying to withdraw and is pushing for free access to the railway to increase the value of its assets in Liberia and Guinea with the view to sell these at a later stage.
While AML is still in control of the line, Friedland has not ruled out seeking arbitration to demand the reimbursement of $30m that HPX forked out to the cash-strapped Liberian state in 2022 for it to pay staff wages. As Africa Intelligence revealed, it had struck up talks with the Indian group Jindal Steel & Power.