07/07/2010 – By: Nat Bayjay, (231)77 402737 & Jetee J. Tarr, Student-Intern (231) 5 479629
Faced with public anxiety and huge expectations about its operations in a country that is in need of industrial redemption as Liberia struggles to get back on its feet, ArcelorMittal Liberia has unveiled its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who seems very poised to make the company’s dream a reality key among which is the shipment of its first iron ores in a year’s time.
Coming from a professional mining engineer background, Rajesh Goel who now replaces Joseph Matthews told a rather interactive news conference in Monrovia that his appointment sends strong signal of his company’s commitment to the signed Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the Liberian Government about five years ago.
Rajesh Goel who now replaces Joseph Matthews told a rather interactive news conference in Monrovia that his appointment sends strong signal of his company’s commitment to the signed Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the Liberian Government about five years ago.
“My journey here (as CEO) is a very strong signal that we are ready……..”, the new CEO said as he provided assurance of some major changes that he would be embarking upon immediately to reach the company’s 2011 shipment target .
ArcelorMittal, the first major foreign investor in post-war Liberia announced the successful conclusion of the review of the MDA signed in 2005 in December 2006 in a landmark agreement of over US$ 1.5 billion that is being dropped into the country’s investment.
The company began operations in Liberia against a background of high expectations about attracting foreign investment to boost the country’s drive towards recovery and development. However, the harsh global economic situation did not spare the company’s operation, compelling it to scale down its operations last year that affected some of its Liberian and foreign staffs that were redundant.
During the news conference at its Sinkor Headquarters Tuesday, Goel who disclosed that he in Liberia was during the signing of the 2005 MDA reaffirmed that the company’s scheduled 2011 shipment will go as planned and the company will be hoping to increase its employment.
Said Goel: “By June of next year, the track (railway) will be completed and we will begin the shipment of ores”.
Fast-Tracking Liberia’s Project
Of all its global projects that got retarded due to last year’s financial crisis, the Liberian project of ArcelorMittal will be fast tracked, Goel sounded in a confident statement that is expected to come more as a relief to the employment-thirsty people mainly in the three counties where the company is operational.
CEO Goel: “Liberia’s project is one of the few projects that are being fast-tracked despite the financial crisis”.
According to the MDA, the company will be actively functional in Grand Bassa and Nimba Counties but Bong County adds to the benefitting counties as the 260 kilometers of the company’s inherited railway runs through the central county.
“Liberia’s project is one of the few projects that are being fast-tracked despite the financial crisis”, he assured.
Already, the over 200 kilometers of abandoned railroad that links Yekepa in Nimba County where the mines are located to the Port City of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County is undergoing its second phase of rehabilitation, paving the way for the employment of hundreds of Liberians.
Currently, an annual social contribution of US$ 3.0 million intended for the benefit of communities in the three counties through a dedicated committee comprising of the company and the Government is being provided by ArcelorMittal out of which US$1.5 million goes to Nimba, US$1 million goes to Grand Bassa while Bong County receives US$500,000.
The new CEO stated that some of the former expatriates that helped with the rehabilitation of the railroad’s first phase have since returned and have been at the center of the railroad’s finishing touches ahead of next year’s shipment.
The rehabilitation of the railroad, according to the CEO, has helped in improving the living conditions of residents that live along the railroad with the construction of toilets, schools and other health and sanitation facilities for residents whose villages and towns or huts and houses were tempered with during the rehabilitation works.
Marcus Wleh, responsible for the company’s Social Responsibilities Program, further buttressed the CEO’s explanation of residents’ benefits by adding, “We ensured that we compensated for cash crops by contacting the Agriculture Ministry for the global prices of such trees and compensated for houses that were constructed near the railroad on the basis of cost of construction provided by the Ministry of Public Works. In fact, what we did was to even compensate those who built very close to the railroad within the past one year instead of the convectional 20 to 10 years rules laid down for compensation”.
The company’s current work-strength of about 450 personnel in addition to hundreds more that are indirectly employed via means of sub-contractual agreements will be stepped up to about 1,500 personnel, the Human Resource Manager, Vida Mensah who also attended the press briefing disclosed.
Mr. Goel also revealed the company’s intention of a vocational institute for its technical staffs
Vocational Institute ‘Very Soon’
Among the many contents of the rich package unveiled by the mining-expert CEO is the future establishment of a vocational training by the company, something he said is one of his priorities.
Goel said: “We will establish a vocational training institute very soon that will train Liberians”.
He however clarified that the trainings will strictly be operational trainings and not necessarily constructional and it will enable trained Liberians to operate heavy duty mechanical equipments.
With the taking over of the company’s new CEO and the renewed assurances that go along with it, the anxiety and doubts surrounding the company’s ability to actually begin full scale operations thereby helping to alleviate the plight of the huge unemployed Liberian populace come June of 2011 have only been increased.
Marcus Wleh, head of Social Responsibility, was on hand to explain the company’s Social Development Program & its impact on beneficiaries
The MDA signed in 2005 between the company and the government outlines that, among other things, ArcelorMittal shall:
Provide the Government with financial reports on the quantity of iron ore produced and sold every calendar quarter, and report on all operations and activities at the end of the each financial year; Construct, maintain and operate health facilities in the Concession Area with modern equipment and with procedures with accepted international standards; Provide training for Liberian citizens for skilled, technical, administrative and managerial positions; Provide an annual social contribution of US$ 3.0 million to be managed and disbursed for the benefit of communities in the counties of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa by a dedicated committee comprised of the company and the Government; Conduct its operations in accordance with the environmental protection and management law of the Republic and undertake regular environmental audit and assessment;