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Russian Mining Company’s Exploration License Expires in 1 month. Will the Government of Liberia renew the license?

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By Julius T. Jaesen II

On October 14, 2019, Liberia’s Ministry of Mines issued an exploration to a Russian Mining company called Solway Mining. The coordinates of the licenses area clearly show that the exploration area is in the concession area of ArcelorMittal Liberia.

Investigation shows that Solway is a company owned by a Russian multimillionaire. Though the company is based in Switzerland, all publicly available information shows that the company is owned by a Russian, Alexander Bronstein. Mr. Bronstein is estimated to be worth about a billion dollars and though not confirmed, he is believed to be a good friend with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bronstein was born in Russian in 1954.

In a period of heightened scrutiny and sanction on Russians who are closed to Putin, Liberia seems to be playing in this dangerous field. Our sources have informed us that the United States of America is not happy with Liberia seeking to be a haven for Russian investment dollars when the rest of the world has tightened the screws on Putin and his men.

Our investigation unearthed that in 2011, Swedbank Estonia dropped Solway as a customer when the company engaged in suspicious money laundering transactions by moving nearly US$1.9 million. Solway engaged in this suspicious transaction by moving monies between 23 different companies.

Under the Liberian Mining Law, the Exploration License is valid for a period of three (3) years. Since the Exploration License was issued on 14 October 2019, it means that on 13 October 2022, the license would have expired.

In the wake of the global sanctions against Russia and Russians for the war in Ukraine, this is the best time for Liberia to correct the wrong. The Government should ensure that the Exploration License is not renewed as doing so would mean that the Government is deliberately not honoring its Concession agreement, and this is dangerous for investors.

It can be recalled that a few weeks ago, President Weah was on tape boasting that the “Liberian boy” who owns a minority share in the Solway is his friend and so he was willing to fight for the “Liberia boy” to ensure that he and the “Indian man” can sit on the table. Many observers believe those words implicated and conflicted the President Weah.

Well, observers are watching to see whether this situation is fixed or whether the Government is prepared to violate the concession agreement and/or invited shady Russian investment into Liberia

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