Community engagement has been one of the key strategies deployed by ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) to help the company run its mining and logistics operations.
The company hires community engagement officers each for Bong, Nimba, and Grand Bassa, the three counties that host its activities.
These officers help coordinate communication and decision-making processes between the citizens and the concession as a way of integrating locals into the work of the company in various ways.
By this means, ArcelorMittal has helped to fund various community development activities in these counties ranging from the construction of roads, schools, playgrounds, and clinics including support to agricultural and farming activities.
With recent news of a violent attack at the company’s Tokadeh Mines in Nimba which left a company employee and Police officer seriously wounded, we had thought to serve as a reminder about how communities have reasons to support and protect a concession that is contributing to the largest revenue to the government and at the same time providing valuable services to underprivileged communities.
Why do we need to balance between supporting concession companies and ensuring that their operations are in line with ethical and sustainable practices? We must be aware also that protecting a company like AML can bring various benefits.
It is crucial to consider the long-term impact on the community’s well-being, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.
Here are some potential reasons:
Since her entry into Liberia, AML continues to make invaluable economic contributions to Liberian communities affected by its work, creating jobs, increasing local spending, and contributing to the overall business ecosystem in places like Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties.
ArcelorMittal has provided services or facilities that enhance the quality of life for residents in dozens of towns and villages including recreational facilities, hand pumps, road networks, and more.
In Nimba County, for example, AML has donated $ 40 million to construct a KM road which will for the first time see the commercial hub of Ganta linked with the key mining town of Yekepa paved.
This road connectivity will help improve internal and cross-border trade and interlink the cities of Monrovia, Kakata, Gbarnga, Sanniquellie, and Yekepa not to mention the generation of some 2,000 short- to medium-term jobs.
Our communities must be aware of how crucial AML’s payment of fees and or taxes to the government is, as well as contributions to public funds that directly support community development, infrastructure, and public services.
Just last year, ArcelorMittal as prime sponsor provided a whopping $275,000, the largest single non-for-profit sponsorship donation to help the Ministry of Youths and Sports run the 2022/2023 National County Sports Meet.
The company is on record for her repeated support to Grand Bassa, Nimba, and Bong counties to better prepare for succeeding editions of the county meet.
Many of the communities affected by AML’s operations have a reason to help provide security for the company because, in the absence of such generous concession, regular partnerships with local groups be it for sponsorship or collaborations that foster positive relationships and community engagement cannot be achieved.
We have seen the annual implementation of a community soccer tournament for all ArcelorMittal host communities as part of a bigger community’s identity and social development drive that brings a sense of place and pride in addition to the offering of employment opportunities for residents, helping to reduce unemployment and improve livelihoods.
It cannot be overemphasized how collaboration and strong support from Liberians residing in AML’s concession areas can lead to the development of better initiatives that could enhance community services and provide amenities in some of these areas with deeply challenging social and economic concerns.
Communities have a role to help develop trust, safety, and social cohesion with concessions; strengthen social and cultural capacities to resolve disputes and conflict; and promote dialogue that benefits all.