By Julius T. Jaesen II
Managing Editor/Democracy Watch
The second phase of AML’s expansion is expected to be the largest iron ore project in West Africa when the construction of a concentration plant for ore refinery is completed by 2023, which is geared towards transforming our ore from low quality into high grade. 15 million metric tons per year of ore will be produced as a result of the expansion project. The arrangement reserves up to 30 million square feet for future growth inside the corporation. So, when the Legislature acts swiftly to ratify the amendment to the existing Mineral Development Agreement and ArcelorMittal begins to expand its operation which also encapsulates processing, rail, and port facilities – it will no doubt put Liberia on the global pedestal as a prime destination for investment amid a gloomy picture that has been painted for investment by the recent Department of State Investment Climate Statement.
The rise of Liberian small and medium-sized enterprises that provide a variety of services to AML is also expected to be stimulated by the phase two expansion project. This phase two expansion also means a lot for the government of Liberia in the area of generating more royalties and taxes to finance the government’s investments in human capital, infrastructure, and the provision of basic social services to Liberian citizens.
According to the World Bank, substantial private-sector investment will be required to bridge most of the financing gaps for nations in the global south (poor or developing countries) to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the World Bank also pointed out that developing nations or poor countries who are in the greatest need of funds, such as weak and conflict-affected states – to close the financing gap – frequently experience the greatest obstacles in collecting taxes to fund their development. But with the ratification of AML’s agreement which is in the tone of 1 billion to be added to the already 1.7 billion investment – this will be a blessing for Liberia and will go a long way in bridging the finance gap to fund development by annually providing over 80 million in royalty and other taxes to government’s budget aside from the millions affected communities are to benefit.
The U.S. Department of State’s 2022 Investment Climate Statement notes that low human capital development continues to constrain investment and development in Liberia, alongside high electricity prices, poor infrastructure, limited internet access outside of major cities, and pervasive government corruption. As the government struggles in its effort to place a premium on human capital development and unlock the doors for potential foreign direct investment inflows in Liberia, it cannot be gainsaid that in buttress of the government’s efforts to achieve the aforementioned – no foreign direct investment entity has invested heavily in human capital development than ArcelorMittal-Liberia.
Whilst waiting for the Liberian government to do what is best for our country and people by ratifying the agreement, ArcelorMittal-Liberia, has begun a training and development program for high-potential Liberian employees as part of the phase two expansion project. These workers are expected to gain on-the-job experience and knowledge in AML’s mining operations around the world. This is a big boost for our country and its unemployed youth
Training in areas such as mining operation optimization, plant maintenance, planning and execution, plant electrical operation systems, and electrical maintenance are all part of AML’s flagship program. Mine production and operations, as well as plant fitting and heavy-duty mobile equipment maintenance, are the two most important courses covered by the training programs. Aside from this, at the Vocational Training Centre run by ArcelorMittal, students earn a two-year on-site certificate in a variety of skilled crafts, including mechanical and electrical work. This effort shows clearly that ArcelorMittal is deeply committed to the local economy, as seen by its substantial investment in advanced skills training.
Investment in appropriate skills is essential for development; this is the way to boost production, bring in new capital, and expand employment possibilities. Obtaining marketable abilities is highly valued in the new global agenda (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals calls for a “significant rise” in “the number of youth and adults who have necessary skills, including technical and vocational abilities, for employment, decent jobs, and entrepreneurship” by the year 2030. This is especially crucial in Liberia, where the gap between available skills and the demands of the labor market is the largest. Certainly, this is where AML has joined efforts over those years to buttress the government’s commitment to human capital development. This is why I support AML’s phase two expansion because I know it means lots of opportunities for Liberia and its citizens who grappling with economic hardship.
ArcelorMittal is a reputed multinational global steel giant known for creating employment opportunities in many countries around the world. The company is ranked 197th in the 2022 Fortune Global 500 ranking of the world’s largest corporations. Liberia is lucky to be one of the destinations ArcelorMittal has chosen to invest in. AML is a decent and respectable development partner our country is gifted with.
The company will dramatically increase the production of premium iron ore once the modified Mineral Development Agreement enters into force, resulting in the creation of much new employment and broader economic benefits for Liberia.
President George Weah last year – during the signing ceremony – also acknowledged the many contributions of AML – our long-time investment partner – has made to Liberia’s economic development.
“We are delighted to have reached this important agreement with ArcelorMittal Liberia, our long-term partner in the development of the mining sector in Liberia. This agreement demonstrates to the world that Liberia welcomes foreign direct investment and is a key emerging destination for capital. It further supports the Government’s ’Pro-Poor Agenda’, which is underpinned by the importance of creating jobs to lift Liberian citizens out of poverty. This further investment by ArcelorMittal in Liberia bears testament to the company’s confidence in the future of this country. We are confident that our constructive working relationship will go from strength to strength”, President Weah stated.
And indeed, the President’s statement is well-placed and pointed. And surely AML’s desire to expand its operations by investing an additional billion to its investment portfolio is undoubtedly a renewed confidence in the future of Liberia.
Even at the peak of the Ebola Virus Disease and now Covid-19 – which threatened the ship of our economy – AML has always stood by Liberia and contributed immensely in defeating these health menaces and putting our country once again on the path to development.
Liberia deserves better! Liberians deserve a better life. We need AML for the good of our development.