Senate approves $1bn iron ore deal


MONROVIA, April 30, 2007 (Reuters).
Liberia's Senate has approved a $1bn iron ore mining contract with the world's largest steel producer, Arcelor Mittal, opening the way for the project to start, the government said yesterday.

Liberia's upper house of parliament approved the project in a special session late on Friday, April 27, 2007, and the formal ratification was announced on Monday, April 30, 2007 by Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh. The lower house endorsed the project last week.

"This agreement is a significant step. The contract is expected to create about three thousand jobs for our people ... Mittal is a huge company and its operation in Liberia will mean a lot for the people of this country," Bropleh said.

In a final formality, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was now due to sign the agreement for it to be promulgated. Her government last year renegotiated an initial Mittal agreement signed in 2005 with an unelected interim administration, boosting the state's interest in the deal and raising the investment from $900m.

A Mittal representative in Liberia, who asked not to be named, welcomed the Senate approval. "We are happy to hear this. We are waiting for this to be printed into a handbill (formal document). But we think that it's a good step for everyone," he said.

The 25-year deal signed in December gives Mittal the right to mine a huge, high-quality ore body in northwest Liberia with reserves currently estimated at 500 million tonnes of iron ore. The revisions to the accord ensured the Liberian state would retain control of its main port of Buchanan and a railway serving the mine, both of which had been awarded to the steelmaker under the original agreement.

Liberia was the world's fifth-biggest producer of iron ore before a 1989-2003 civil war which killed some 200,000 people and devastated its infrastructure. Mining is now expected to contribute to the impoverished nation's recovery. For Mittal, iron-rich West Africa is of increasing strategic interest, partly because of its geographical location. Last month, the company unveiled a $1.2bn investment in an iron ore mine in nearby Senegal.

Mittal expects the mining operations in Liberia, when fully under way, to generate some 2,500 jobs within the company, and 10 times that outside the company. Unemployment among Liberia's 3.2 million population is around 80 percent. The company said last month it expected the first iron ore from its new Liberia mine within four years.

Liberia finally signs deal with Mittal Steel, December 29, 2006
  Liberia and Foreign Investments
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