Iron ore

The start of operations of Liberia’s first iron ore mine

LMC main complex, Tubmanburg

Randy Sweeten Collection



The start of a new era for Liberia

Four to five years after he had signed the concession agreement Lansdell Christie - who, as was shown above, lacked the capital and the expertise to start a mining venture - had realized virtually everything needed to start the mining operations. He had attracted the necessary capital, mainly from the USA, and technical know-how (Dutch/US). He had also secured the marketing of the product (iron ore) through sales agency agreements (US/Dutch). Moreover, he had benefited from the infrastructural improvement financed by the Liberian Government with a US loan. The Free Port of Monrovia opened in July 1948 and in late 1949 the bridge over the St Paul river was officially opened – and named Tubman bridge, after President Tubman. The railroad was completed in April 1951 and the subsequent shipment of iron ore from Bomi Hills, Liberia, to the USA in many respects marked the beginning of a new era for Liberia.

  Liberia, Africa's largest iron ore exporter

The Liberia Mining Company was the first of four iron ore companies which produced and shipped such large quantities of iron ore that in the 1960s and 1970s Liberia became Africa’s largest iron ore exporter and even the third on the world list of iron ore exporters.

In 1958 followed a concession agreement with the National Iron Ore Company (NIOC) for the exploitation of the Mano river iron ore deposits. Then followed LAMCO JV, the Liberian American-Swedish Minerals Company Joint venture, which became operational in 1960/61. LAMCO JV exploited the extremely rich Nimba mountains iron ore deposits. The investments in the LAMCO JV then were the largest Swedish investment abroad after 1945. The fourth mining company, Bong Mining Company (BMC), was created following a concession agreement with German investors in 1958. The mine opened in 1965. ‘Bong mine’ as the company was and still is colloquially called in Liberia, was then the largest German investment in Sub-Sahara Africa.
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Bomi Hills 1960s

Randy Sweeten Collection



Bomi Hills becomes Bomi holes

In 1977 LMC, Liberia’s first iron ore mine, closed its doors. The ore deposits at Bomi hills had been depleted. During the 1951 – 1977 period LMC had shipped US $ 540 million worth of iron ore whereas the Liberian Government has received during these 27 years some US $ 84 million (excluding rentals), or approximately 16% of LMC’s sales income.

In 1977 the ore reserves at Bomi Hills had been depleted. Liberians, who never lose their good sense of humor, joked that ‘Bomi hills had become Bomi holes’. However, following LMC’s closing down, several questions arose among which the most logical ones were:

‘What did LMC contribute to the development of the area’? and ‘What did the Liberian Government do with the revenue it received from the exploitation of the Bomi hills ore’?

The answers to these questions will be provided in following parts of the Liberia Iron Ore Story (‘under construction’), but it could already be said that the relationship between the Liberian Government and the foreign investors was very uneven. This already had been the case with Firestone. In 1951, the year in which LMC started its mining operations, the profits retained by Firestone-Liberia after (!) tax was paid to the Liberian Government still amounted to three times the total income of the Liberian Treasury for that year. Secondly, LMC’s annual income from the sales of the Bomi Hills ore exceeded the total revenue of the Republic of Liberia until 1960.

To be continued.

Open pit mining LMC
Randy Sweeten Collection


Index Iron Ore



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