Liberia: Parliament ratifies mining deal amidst dissent
Panafrican News Agency (PANA)
September 14, 2005


Monrovia - The interim Liberian parliament has ratified a US$900 million Mineral Development Agreement entered into by government and Mittal Steel to exploit the country's largest iron ore reserves in north-eastern Nimba County, amidst protest by some Liberian officials and civil society groups.

Opponents of the deal have questioned the authority of the current power-sharing transitional government to enter into a long-term agreement on the exploitation of Liberia's natural resources.

The country's peace agreement that created the transitional government in 2003 forbids it from "entering into contracts/agreements extending beyond its two-year tenure."

Others, who complained in separate interviews with PANA Wednesday, said the ratification was "hasty" and "not open to public debate" before the parliament acted in giving the iron ore mine to Mittal Steel.

An official of the world's largest steel group, John White, told PANA Wednesday Mittal Steel was awaiting formal hand over of the mine by government to "swing into action to restart operations."

The deal, which was approved by parliament over the weekend, gives Mittal Steel access to over 1 billion metric tons of rich iron ore reserves for 25 years.

Under the agreement, Mittal Steel will pay government a royalty of 4.5 percent of the invoiced sale of iron ore FOB ('free on board'). Once a booming mining region, the Nimba mining infrastructures were looted or vandalized during the 14-year civil war and hundreds of miles of railway linking the area to the southern port of Buchanan put out of service.

White said reconstruction of the port and railway will be the first phase of revamping the Nimba mines, and that the company was expected to resume exploitation and exportation of iron ore from Liberia within a year. Mittal Steel has agreed to pay US$1.5 million toward settlement of salary arrears of hundreds of former mine workers.

Background / More:
Interim Government rushes to sign controversial steel deal
The Analyst August 19, 2005


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