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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Liberia: ArcelorMittal Basks In Defense Against President Boakai -Amid Stubborn Evidence Of Poor Performance

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ArcelorMittal has a global reputation for not living up to its commitment to countries where its operations exist and ignited widespread protests in Bosnia, Canada, Italy, France, the United States, Ukraine, Mexico and South Africa, and South Africa.

In Liberia, where the steel company has its largest concession, the scenario is nothing to write home about.

This poor investment practice struck President Joseph Boakai on the cheek when he reflected on the good days of responsible investments in Liberia including the Liberian-American Swedish Mining Company (LAMCO), Bong Mining Company and others during his statement at the US-Africa Business Summit a fortnight ago.

President Joseph Nyuma Boakai says Yekepa, the operational area of a multimillion-dollar iron ore mining project owned by ArcelorMittal, is a ghost town with nothing to show having extracted the country’s resources for over the last 20 years

Speaking at the US-Africa Business Summit in the United States, President Boakai said during the early days of his public service career he saw Yekepa and other mining concession areas vibrant and made a tremendous impact that spurred the lives of ordinary citizens unlike what is being witnessed in today’s Liberia.

He insinuated that the concessionaire exploited the Liberian people with the help of powerful individuals. He asserted that under his leadership, investment in Liberia will no longer be “business as usual” but that Liberians will see the impact of every investment in their area.

“These natural resources cannot be replenished. So we have to ensure that the country benefits while it is still there. A company cannot just pay salaries and do small corporate social responsibility and that’s all to talk about when that company leaves us. Investment in Liberia now will benefit the company and the people together,” President Boakai emphasized.

The Liberia leader also shed light on his support for the multiuser railway project that is being proposed by major investors in the region.

He stressed that the railway is a national asset that cannot be limited to one Concession Company that is making little impact and then when that company’s operations are completed the country has no use for the asset. “We must ensure the railway is beneficial now while it is in use,” he pointed out.

In a rather harsh defense against the President’s comments, the company in a press release issued on the evening of Sunday, May 19, 2024 in Monrovia, said the comments as reported by a local newspaper is unprofessional and disinformation.

“ArcelorMittal Liberia states that contrary to the Observer’s unprofessional conduct and disinformation campaign against AML, there is no multiuser mandate currently established by the Government of Liberia, nor does AML fall short of any railway user agreements.

The company rebuffed President Boakai’s statement by saying “President Boakai’s remarks were a general lament about the historic failures of mining operations to sustain local communities post-closure. His comments were not a specific indictment of ArcelorMittal or any current company.

However, several media outlets, including the Liberian Observer, have twisted his words to target ArcelorMittal unfairly. They ran sensational headlines like “Boakai Angry with AML,” suggesting the President singled out ArcelorMittal, a narrative not supported by the interview’s context.

ArcelorMittal claimed that it is has been contributing to Liberia’s economic growth although evidence does not point to the authenticity of this claim given the growing wave of protests that have occasioned the steel giant’s operations in Liberia.

While the company is basking in defense against the President of Liberia, ormal activities of the world iron ore mining giant were halted for days in Nimba County due to sustained protests from host communities backed by their traditional society.

The communities, mainly from Sehyi, Yarmein, and Zor Chiefdoms accused the company of not living up to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) signed with the Government of Liberia and its social corporate responsibility to the communities.

They are demanding improved roads connecting the communities, employment of locals, restoration of facilities in Yekepa, as well as resolving environmental, water, sewage, and health conditions.

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