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
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