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Why Did ArcelorMittal’s Ore Concentrator Get Relocated to Yekepa, Nimba County?

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The Honorable House of Representatives last week voted to investigate a complaint from Grand Bassa County Representative Thomas Goshua over an alleged violation of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) of ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) for constructing its first Concentrator “Washing Plant of Iron Ores” in Nimba County instead of in Grand Bassa County.

Rep. Goshua in his complaint accused AML of shortchanging the MDA which for him warrants severe bridge.

Said Goshua “… the Management of the said institution has made a unanimous decision to shortchange the MDA by building the Concentrator in Nimba County without seeking any form of approval from this Legislature, least to mention the courtesy of informing the Grand Bassa Legislative Caucus of how such decision was derived.”

“Given the foregoing, I humbly implore the conscience of this Plenary to invite the Management of ArcelorMittal, the Ministry of Mines & Energy, and the National Bureau of Concessions to explain how this decision was derived in gross breach of the aforementioned Mineral Development Agreement.”

The House’s Plenary Thursday, 1st June generally agreed that the Committee on Mines & Energy Concessions probe ArcelorMittal Liberia for “alleged violation and report within one week”.

Plenary voted not just to investigate ArcelorMittal’s Management, but also that the Ministry of Mines & Energy, and the National Bureau of Concessions be subjected to the investigation.

An investigation by this paper has however shown various pieces of evidence coupled with technical, financial, and logistical reasons for which the determination was made to have the concentrator built in Nimba.

First of all, the “washing plant” mentioned in recent discussions around this matter was a tentative development proposal submitted when Mittal Steel initially entered Liberia.

In the years that followed, a more detailed plan with approvals from the Environmental Protection Agency recommended the iron ore concentrator plants be located near the mines in Yekepa, Nimba County.

This was 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.

Feasibility studies that ArcelorMittal Liberia conducted also show that it is technically efficient and cost-effective to locate the concentrator near the source of the iron ore in Nimba County.

We must understand that ArcelorMittal Liberia is not just building an iron ore washing plant.

In Nimba, what is under construction is a modern night technology facility that will be producing a high-grade concentrate, which requires approximately 25 million tons annually of raw ore to produce 15 million tons of concentrated product.

So ideally, transporting the raw ore to Buchanan would also consume valuable rail capacity that is currently in demand by other users like HPX who has already paid 30 million to the government for the use of the railway.

Essentially, it is unwise to build a “washing plant” in Buchanan that could cause erosion, contamination and alteration of soil profiles, contamination of local streams and wetlands, and an increase in noise level, dust, and emission.

Had ArcelorMittal agreed to build the concentrator near the port of Buchanan, the remediation of the potential environmental impacts, for example through water and air pollution, and ecological depletion, would have net effects on Buchanan City’s environmental system.

The ore concentrator under construction in Yekepa will provide employment for Liberia from all walks of life who are qualified too, and as the company has stated in an earlier statement, the facility’s employment capacity will not be limited to any one county.

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