Liberia: EU MPs Concerned About Arcelormittal – Monrovia Agreement

12 JANUARY 2022

The New Republic Liberia (Monrovia)

EU High Representative Josep Borrell was questioned about the agreement signed between ArcelorMittal and the Liberian government over expanding the Yekepa iron ore mine. The agreement has already been deemed worrisome by the Liberian parliament and companies working near Yekepa.

Though none of the companies planning on using steel giant ArcelorMittal’s Liberian railway are located in the European Union (EU), their concerns have made their way to Brussels. In December, Romanian MP Ramona Strugariu, member of Renew Europe, notified EU High Representative Josep Borrell about an agreement signed between ArcelorMittal and Liberian authorities. The agreement covers the expansion of ArcelorMittal’s Yekepa iron ore mine in northern Liberia and of the capacity of its railway, which crosses Liberia from north to south to reach the Port of Buchanan. The agreement gives ArcelorMittal exclusive rights to the railway, which might make it hard for anyone else to use it.

Hushed negotiations

Strugariu pointed out the secrecy surrounding the terms of the agreement as well as the controversy it sparked: how the agreement would benefit the Liberian economy, how it would impact local communities and the risks of corruption and the monopoly ArcelorMittal would have over the railway. She asked Borrell if Brussels had discussed these issues with authorities in Monrovia, what the EU’s position was and if it thinks the terms of the agreement are compatible with the EU’s goals for good governance and sustainable development in Liberia.

After the agreement was signed in September, the Société des mines de fer de Guinée(SMFG) carried out an extensive awareness campaign about the risks of the agreement (AI, 12/10/21). SMFG is based in Guinea but owned by Euronimba Ltd, registered in Jersey, in turn owned by Canadian High Power Exploration (HPX), and is developing the Nimba iron ore project in Guinea. Nimba is close to ArcelorMittal’s railway and SMFG plans to build a link to the railway to export its production. The terms of excusivity would give ArcelorMittal the power to block SMFG’s project by refusing to let them use the railway or demanding difficult terms for its use.

The Liberian parliament confirmed these risks in December. It ratified the parts of the agreement concerning the expansion of the mine but not the terms regarding the railway and the port (AI, 24/12/21). Swiss Solway Investment Group also acquired an iron ore project near Yekepa in 2020 (AI, 17/09/20).


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