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ArcelorMittal’s US$800M Deal Goes To Conference Committee

It has been exactly six weeks since the Liberian Senate, on February 8, voted to block the ratification of the 3rd amendment to the mineral development agreement between ArcelorMittal and the government.

Along with that vote, the Senate Plenary also proposed that a conference committee, inclusive of both houses, be set up to pool together their respective recommendations on the AML 3rd revised agreement, before concurrence with the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Bhofal Chambers

In a communication to Speaker Bhofal Chambers and members of the House of Representatives, read on March 22, the Senate said after scrutiny and deliberations on the bill, it had reserved concurrence but would like to ratify the bill with the provision of the affected matrix: “Stakeholders issues and grievances — Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa County — and commitment of ArcelorMittal.”

The Senate added that the affected matrix is an integral part of the 3rd amendment since it served as an agreement between the affected counties and ArcelorMittal.

The Senate in its deliberations on the AML deal on February 8, raised serious concerns with the company’s neglect of its commitment to honoring portions of its original MDA with the Government of Liberia, especially the restoration of infrastructure in the concession area.

Senate Pro-tempore Albert Chie

On February 8, Senator Varney G. Sherman, speaking on behalf of the Senate joint committee on Concessions and Investment, Lands, Mines, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, told the Plenary: “We don’t think that ArcelorMittal has complied with the expressed language of the agreement or with the intent of the parties.”

Senator Sherman was referring to the 2005 MDA, with specific reference to the company’s mandate to rehabilitate existing infrastructure in the concession area, namely housing, health and education facilities, and other infrastructures such as electric power, water, and sanitation in the concession area.

However, up to now, ArcelorMittal has neglected to fulfill the said mandate.  “And this has caused tremendous inconvenience and perhaps suffering of the people of both Grand Bassa and Nimba Counties.”

Sen. Sherman then described such neglect on the part of ArcelorMittal as “very disheartening.”

In the third revised agreement signed between the administration of President George Weah and ArcelorMittal Holdings A.G. and ArcelorMittal Holdings Liberia Limited on September 10, 2021, the government granted exclusive rights to the Yekepa to Buchanan railroad and Port of Buchanan, as captured in Article 3 of the submitted agreement.

The House of Representatives, having received the proposed MDA on November 24, 2021, cited Article 3, Section 3(f), entitled, ‘The concessionaire’s capacity as Railroad Operator’, which gives the steel giant monopolistic control over Liberia’s infrastructure assets; the port and rail infrastructure with the ability to use its exclusive rights to block other users’ access to these sovereign assets.

The House then recommended that the agreement allows for transparent non-discriminatory access to Liberian infrastructure assets, with appropriate oversight by the Government, consistent with other successful multi-user models and best international practice.

Thus, in the spirit of continuous collaboration between the two Houses on the ratification of the US$800 million ArcelorMittal Investment deal, the Senate has proposed that a Conference Committee be set up and therefore submitted its members’ names chaired by Senator Cllr. Augustine Chea.

Members of the Conference Committee are Sen. Cllr. Varney G. Sherman, Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Sen. Numene R. H. Bartekwa, Sen. Simeon Taylor, Sen. Prince Moye, and Sen. Jeremiah Koung.

Meanwhile, the Plenary of the House of Representatives, through a motion from Margibi County District #2 Representative Ivar Jones, has voted to receive the Senate’s communication of reserving its concurrence and mandate the  Speaker to appoint the House’s members to the Conference Committee.

Those appointed by the Speaker to the Conference Committee on the ArcelorMittal 3rd revised MDA are Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, chairman, and Rep. Rosanna Shaack, co-chair. Members include Representatives Johnson Gwaikolo, Vincent S.T. Willie,  Cllr. Kanie Wesso, Matthew Zarzar, Acarous Gray, and Joseph Somwarbi as Resource Person.

The Conference Committee of the Legislature is expected to report to their separate Chambers after the Constituency Break in May 2022.

Courtesy to Daily Observer.

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