Executive Mansion, Monrovia
The world’s largest steel and mining company, ArcelorMittal, has officially begun iron ore mining in Liberia, the first ever in 20 years at the delight of Liberian president, Ellen Johnson and the mining company Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lakshmi Mittal.
Liberia’s Nimba Mountain is its 18th mine and Liberia the 10th country where the company has mining operations.
Speaking at the launching ceremony in Buchana city, Grand Bassa county,last week
They were the first one to make a big move for new investment, the President recalled, which had served as a catalytic force for the many others that came, and which ended up with Liberia having a US$16 billion investment. “We really have to thank you for that,” she told CEO Mittal
She was also very pleased, President Sirleaf said, with where Liberia is in its partnership with ArcelorMittal, a partnership that is well in hand and is mutuality beneficial. The President recalled that when the partnership started in 2006, there was an initial investment commitment of US$1 billion from the company.
She added: “When Mr. Mittal visited in December 2007, he increased that investment size to US$1.5 billion. He started operations, and those operations have continued, in keeping with that commitment, so that today we have Buchanan, Yekepa beginning to come alive again, as we knew it in the 1970s when we were operating.”
President Sirleaf also commended Mr. Mittal’s commitment to corporate social responsibility through the Social Development Funds, noting that US$3 million provided by the company are shared among the three counties in which it operates, namely Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa, where community leaders establish committees that determine how those funds are to be spent.
Concerning infrastructure, which is beneficial to the nation, President Sirleaf said she was holding Mr. Mittal to another commitment he made in December 2007, to pave the road from Ganta to Sanniquellie. When Mr. Mittal joked that he was not clapping, the President quipped, “I don’t want a clap, I want cash,” to the delight of the audience.
Recognizing the workers of ArcelorMittal, President Sirleaf said: “We wouldn’t have been able to go far without them.” She commended Dr. Emmanuel Dolo, the highest ranked Liberian in the company, for all he’s done to represent the Liberian capacity, but added, “That’s not enough. He’s just one, we need 10 more.”
In future, the Liberian President said, “we’re going to be stressing, as a government, vocational and technical training, to enable our young people to go into those professions where they have the capacity and expertise to get the jobs, not only at the level of workers, as important as that is, but at the level of professionals, where they can become the managers, and in keeping with the partnership with ArcelorMittal, to ensure that, over time, we want to see more and more Liberians take over senior management positions, and we will be working toward that end.”
In launching ArcelorMittal’s mining operations, CEO Mittal recalled that Liberia had been through some very difficult times, “but today it is back on a track of recovery and growth. I believe today’s event not only celebrates the start-up, once again, of mining in this country, but is also symbolic of the considerable progress that has been made under President Sirleaf’s presidency.”
Offering his congratulations to President Sirleaf and Liberia for everything that had been achieved to date, ArcelorMittal’s CEO said: “The fact that we are here today to celebrate the re-launch of mining in Liberia is a testament to the new stability that you have brought to the country .It is some six years now since ArcelorMittal first signed the agreement to invest in Liberia.
Our commitment was based on the belief that Liberia had a bright future ahead of it thanks to the perseverance and work ethic of its people, the dedication of their leaders, and the belief that we could contribute to Liberia’s recovery and sustainable growth.” He added: “ArcelorMittal is a global company and we have operations all around the world.
But this special project that we have been working on in Liberia has not only been one of the most challenging projects that we have ever undertaken, but also one of the most rewarding.”
He also expressed his pride in the work that ArcelorMittal has done on the social side, in the areas of education and healthcare; continuous investment in the communities in which the company operates; its work to encourage responsible investment, good corporate citizenship and collective action for the sustainable development of Liberia; its efforts to minimize disruption to the fragile ecosystem; in offering employment both directly and indirectly to some 5,500 Liberians, while working towards a time where operations can be run by Liberian management and employees on a long-term basis.
Mr. Mittal went on to say that after six years working in Liberia, ArcelorMittal was delighted to have reached this stage. “Now we have the infrastructure in place, we can look at the potential to grow and develop further. We can look forward to increasing the productivity of the mine, to utilize ourselves the full potential of the railways, and to increasing our investment in Liberia.”
He said that five years ago, he gave his word to President Sirleaf that “together, we would make this day happen. I am delighted, Madame President, that we are standing here today to celebrate the result of our collective efforts. Today, we celebrate the culmination of five years of work, and we look forward with confidence to a peaceful future and potential of this beautiful country.”
The Minister of Lands, Mines & Energy, Dr. Roosevelt Jayjay, recalled the history, starting in 1951, of the shipment of iron ore from Liberia’s shores by the Liberia Mining Company, LAMCO and Bong Mines, during a period of growth without development in Liberia in which many investors took away all that they wanted and the Liberian people did not benefit.
Thanks to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he said, things have changed. “Our President is a world-class economist and a genius in terms of the promulgation of global policies. For those of our compatriots who believe that they can take her on, try it and you will see.”
“When I hear our President talk,” the Minister continued, “I hear her talk about corporate social responsibility, and that concept is enshrined in all of the Mineral Development Agreements the government is signing.” He mentioned, in that connection ArcelorMittal’s contribution of US$15 million, over the years, to help with infrastructure development, covering schools, hospitals, roads, etc.
He also observed that the iron ore outputs from the Putu, Western Cluster, BHP Billiton and China Union mines would be far greater than had been projected, which meant a very solid future for the youth and working-class people of Liberia. Minister Jayjay also disclosed that the Government of Australia would be sending a team to Liberia to help with online training of Liberian engineers and technicians.
What is happening here, he said, “is a clear testimonial to the qualities imbued in our President. Without her capacity to work along with the global community and with everybody else, the country would be nowhere. We will work to ensure that Liberia represents her, and that the love she has bestowed upon this nation is equally bestowed upon her.” Being President of Liberia required hard work, commitment and desire to see our people improve their lives. “This is our chance. Let’s use it.”
Opening the program, Mr. Joseph Matthews, former CEO for ArcelorMittal Liberia, observed that this day had been in the making for six years, and was a joint team effort between ArcelorMittal, Liberia and development partners.
For his part, Mr. Peter Kukielski, Member of ArcelorMittal’s Group Management Board, said many people had contributed to the launch of ArcelorMittal’s operations in Liberia: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for turning Liberia’s economy completely around; the Liberian Legislature; employees of ArcelorMittal, including senior management, and the engineers and contractors. “None of this would be possible without you,” he stated.
Today marked the start of “the rebirth of mining in Liberia,” which he attributed to the Liberian people. It was an honor to be working in Liberia, and to be “part of a country moving from the past and to a better future.” This celebration provided an excellent opportunity to look back to how far we’ve come together, and to collaborate to accomplish even more in the future. “Together, we’ve come a long way. Together, we can transform tomorrow,” Mr. Kukielski concluded.
Offering the vote of thanks were: Grand Bassa County Superintendent Julia Duncan Cassell, and Mr. Rajesh Goel, CEO ArcelorMittal Liberia.
During the program, CEO Mittal presented the Liberian President with three mementos to mark the special day: a coffee table book, titled “A First for Liberia: Commemorating the Start of Mining Operations”; a golden spike, to commemorate what has been done in infrastructure; and a 5 kg. jar filled with iron ore from the Nimba Mountain.
Following the formal program, President Sirleaf, Mr. Mittal and guests toured the Port of Buchanan to observe loading operations of the ore.