The Minister of Internal Affairs has urged the Citizens of Grand Bassa to detest violence and engage in peaceful conversation with concessions.
Minister Varney Sirleaf denounced the use of violence in seeking redress to issues that border on the conduct of foreign businesses.
He was speaking at a recent citizen engagement meeting in Buchanan organized by the Government of Liberia through the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Mines and Energy, the National Bureau of Concession, and local authorities of Grand Bassa over claims that the company unilaterally relocated its washing plant from the county.
The minister urged the people of Grand Bassa to tread on the path of dialogue and peaceful engagement with ArcelorMittal over matters concerning the relocation of the ore concentrator.
In the early morning hours of Monday, May 22, ArcelorMittal’s operations were disrupted for the entire day when unknown individuals set fire to a section of the rail track between Kilometers 005 and 006 in Buchanan.
Access roads to the company’s Buchanan Concession were violently blocked with tires set ablaze by some protestors, disrupting ArcelorMittal Liberia’s operations, and endangering the safety and security of employees of the company, contractors, and residents.
The Liberia National Police intervened, and the AML Buchanan concession access gates were reopened but the protesters reassembled on the section of the track between Kilometers 005 and 006 in Buchanan that same day.
This follows weeks of agitation in the county over the relocation of a “washing plant” they say the company had ‘promised” to build in Bassa but later moved to Nimba.
Meanwhile, AML has said the section of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA being referenced by the citizens is a tentative development proposal that was presented by Mittal Steel.
The company adds that following a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA) advised that the plant be built next to the Yekepa mine in Nimba County.
The decision is to ensure that the affluent tailings could be managed near the mine site, rather than exposing the sensitive marine ecosystem in Buchanan to the potential impact of a mining operation.
On the strength of the advice of the EPA, the modern ore concentrator is under construction in Yekepa, Nimba county but has been met with violent protests and agitations with lawmakers accusing the company of “bridging” its MDA with the government.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is considered an engine for growth in Liberia and developing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.
But factors such as violent protests, and political instability continue to undermine macroeconomic stability, growth, and infrastructure, and often lead to poor Foreign Direct Investment in Liberian and other African countries.
ArcelorMittal’s foreign direct investment in Liberia has for about 17 years now serves as an important vehicle for the transfer of capital and technology from Europe to Liberia, and as such, it has generated more economic growth than domestic investment in capital-scarce Liberia.
Three years running, ArcelorMittal has been named the highest taxpayer in the county making payments in millions of dollars in taxes and royalties that help the government to service education, health, and infrastructure programs.