Executive Mansion, Monrovia
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed into law the Western Cluster Mining Agreement, ending more than two years of intensive negotiations between the Government of Liberia and parties interested in the exploration of the Western Cluster iron ore reserves.
At a ceremony in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, on Monday, the President described the occasion as a great day, assuring residents that the agreement is in the interest of the country. Amid singing and dancing by local residents in appreciation, the President expressed delight that the agreement was finally concluded to allow the company to begin operations that would create employment opportunities. She also thanked the National Legislature for ratifying the agreement.
An Executive Mansion release states that President Sirleaf made it clear that the shipment of iron ore would not begin immediately. “It will take some time for them to finish all of their work… to build all of the infrastructure, the roads and all of those things, before they can start, but at least we are starting, and it will create some jobs and the jobs will be added.”
The Liberian leader expressed confidence in the ability of Sesa Goa to do the job because of the company’s long years of experience in mining operations. She told the residents: “They come from India, they know the mining business, they have the experience, they have the money, they have the people, they have the knowledge. They are the subsidiary; they are the small company to a big company in India that is about the third largest mining company in the world, so now we are satisfied that this project can go.”
Regarding concerns that the bidding process surrounding the Western Cluster deal was flawed, the President acknowledged the concerns, but maintained that the project would go on, adding, “if you have something against somebody; you say that person did something wrong; the person you say did wrong, we will put the person in court, but we will not stop the Bomi project, the Gbarpolu project.”
The President described the project as very important for the economy and infrastructure of the western region, with employment, road and railway construction at the heart of the agreement.
The President called on residents of the region to work along with the investor to ensure a smooth operation. She also urged the investor to keep the line of communication open at all times between the company and the community and staff. “They must meet with you all the time and tell you what the project is; tell you what they are doing. We want you to be partners; we want you to work together,” the Liberian leader encouraged the residents.
Monday’s ceremony was witnessed by officials of the three concession area counties of Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu, and included members of the Legislative Caucuses of the three counties, among them House Speaker Alex Tyler, who thanked the President for the investment and promised to ensure that residents of the region cooperate with the investor to ensure an amicable work environment.
According to an official of the National Investment Commission, Madam Ciatta Bishop, the over US$2 billion investment will create more than two thousand jobs during the 25-year operations of the company, with an initial workforce of 200 personnel.
Under the agreement, Elenilto shall pay all applicable taxes under the Revenue Laws of Liberia, including withholding tax. The agreement is expected to provide key benefits, including upfront payments estimated at US$40.5 million to government; construction of a railway from Monrovia to Bomi County; development of the old NIOC/Bong Mines Pier at the Freeport of Monrovia; job training for Liberians; adequate housing, modern public health facilities, water and sanitation. The agreement also calls for the pavement of a two-lane highway from Tubmanburg to Mano River and more than US$2 million annually toward the counties’ Social Development Fund.
Meanwhile, the President has directed that all funds from land renters be returned to counties where companies are operating. Disclosing the measure at Monday’s signing ceremony, the President described the move as a general government policy which is intended for the development of the counties concerned. The Ministry of Finance has been instructed to ensure compliance with the measure.