Nimba County District #9 Representative, Taa Wongbe, has reasons to believe that Liberia is being short-changed by global iron ore giant, AML, in its operations in the country and as such, there is a need for the 55th legislature to be more vigilant against concessionaires in the country if Liberians are to benefit from the country’s natural resources.
With Liberia being the company’s 4th largest concession that it is operating, Wongbe says much is not being done in the country for Liberians that commensurate with the worth of the company’s status, as well as the Mineral Development Agreement that it signed with the government.
The newly elected Nimba County lawmaker’s skepticism was a somewhat indignant response to the company’s recalcitrant posture during recent interactions with lawmakers of the three counties where the company operates.
Wongbe said he felt insulted by the non-cooperative posture shown to him and a few other lawmakers from Bong, Nimba, and Grand Bassa Counties by ArcelorMittal Liberia’s CEO, Josephus (Joep) Coenen.
He said the CEO decided to be more cheeky in his responses to their inquiries than being sincere and honest about the company’s operations in the country.
According to Representative Wongbe, who posted his frustration on his Facebook page, in a meeting with the company, he requested information about the company’s annual revenue in Liberia and the CEO claimed to have no information about such.
“WOW!! I just walked out of a briefing with ArcelorMittal Liberia feeling insulted! I asked the CEO of ArcelorMittal Liberia, Josephus (Joep) Coenen, about their annual revenue in Liberia and he said he doesn’t know,” Rep. Wongbe said in a Facebook post. “I asked for 2023, 2022, and 2019 and he looked lawmakers from Nimba, Grand Bassa, and Bong dead in our faces and said “I don’t know”. I asked him twice, and he said he didn’t know! Wow”
According to Wongbe, he informed Coenen that he’s a former CEO and no CEO around the world is unaware of their revenue. “I feel insulted. Liberian people should be angry. I told him what my father used to tell me! “Taa…there’s only one thing God is not making any more of on earth and that’s land. Invest in land.” What ArcelorMittal Liberia is extracting from our land cannot be replenished!!.”
The Nimba Representative added: “These guys have been taking us for a ride. They did these nice videos about how they are training people, how much they are investing in Liberia, and all the nice stuff, but couldn’t tell me what percentage of the 79 BILLION revenue ArcelorMittal Liberia makes globally!?? Talking about how they provide US$3.5 million annually for social development like we should be happy! What!!!?? Per their own presentation, Liberia is their 4th largest operation! It’s in the pictures.
“This is how our country is being mortgaged! I walked out with colleagues begging me to stay. I couldn’t stay! I felt insulted. Please do not call me for a meeting if you are unprepared.”
AML is part of the ArcelorMittal group, one of the world’s leading steel and mining companies and the leader in all major steel markets globally. ArcelorMittal has steel-making operations in 16 countries (Liberia not included), including 37 integrated and mini-mill steel-making facilities.
As of December 31, 2022, ArcelorMittal had approximately 154,352 employees globally with an annual achievable production capacity of approximately 82.1 million tonnes of crude steel. The group has an industrial presence in more than 22 countries spanning four continents and covers all the key steel markets, from emerging to mature.
In Liberia, the company signed its first 25-year Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the Government of Liberia in 2006. It is currently negotiating with the government to extend its operation here through the consummation of an extension to the MDA.
ArcelorMittal is one of the largest foreign direct investments in Liberia and the highest contributor to government revenue in the extractive industry. With more than 3,000 employees and growing, ArcelorMittal Liberia is one of the largest employers in Liberia’s private sector.
Despite these impressive statistics, Wongbe, like many other skeptics, believes Liberians would accrue more benefits if the dealing of the company were opened and transparent
Amid Wongbe’s frustration and skepticism over the sincerity of AML operations in the country, the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) named the company as one of the top contributors to the government’s revenue envelope last fiscal year.
The LEITI’s 15th report, which was launched on Tuesday, January 16, highlights the significant contribution of the extractive sector to Liberia’s domestic revenue. According to the report, the extractive sector accounted for 17.16 percent of the government’s revenue envelope in the last fiscal year, amounting to US$182.35 million.
The extractive sector watchdog said the top contributors to the government’s revenue during this period were ArcelorMittal Liberia Limited, Bea Mountain Mining Company, and Firestone Liberia Incorporated. These companies contributed a combined total of US$132 million, with ArcelorMittal leading the way with US$78 million.
The report also sheds light on the social and environmental expenditures of extractive companies, which totaled US$34 million. Mandatory social spending accounted for US$28 million, while voluntary social expenditure amounted to US$5 million. Moreover, both mandatory and voluntary environmental expenses stood at US$1 million each.
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