|Over 5,000 Jobs In 5 Yrs-But Ellen Demands More From ArcelorMittal|
|Published on September 29, 2011||Email To Friend Print Version
By D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh (email@example.com/06586531)
ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steel and mining company, has provided at least 5,500 direct and indirect jobs for Liberians since it began operating in Liberia five years ago, but the country's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the multi-billion steel giant has got more to for Liberian and its people, while mining iron ore here.
ArcelorMittal was the first international company that took a bold steep to invest in a fragile Liberian state right after the cessation of the country's 14-year civil war—with an initial investment portfolio of US$1bn, later US$1.6bn—promising to provide tens of thousands of jobs during its 25-year life span.
Five years later, ArcelorMittal launched its commercial mining operations in the country on September 27, 2011, when the first shipment of iron ore left the shores of Liberia, breaking a 20 year record of dormancy in the country's once bustling mining sector.
The event, graced by President Sirleaf and Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, Mr. Lakshmi N. Mittal, as well as ArcelorMittal's senior management team, represents an important milestone in the recovery of Liberia's economy, which was devastated by 14 years of civil war.
Speaking during the occasion ArcelorMittal's Chief Lakshmi N. Mittal expressed elation for the progress at attributed it to the collaboration of all stakeholders including the Liberian Government and people and the workers as well.
He said the company has been able to contribute to the reduction of high unemployment in the country.
“Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges the country faces and I am glad that, until now, during the construction phase of the project we have been able to offer employment both directly and indirectly to some 5,500 Liberians,” Mr. Mittal said, winning a huge applause from the audience including smiling employees.
He said given the challenge of unemployment, the company is working towards a time where its operations can be run by Liberian management and employees on a long term basis. “...We are putting in place the necessary training and skills development programs which mean that we can create a talent pipeline enabling Liberians to gain the necessary expertise, skills and experience to take up increasing responsibility,” the world's steel giant magnate said.
"It gives me great pleasure to announce the formal launch of our mining operations in Liberia," continued, "Quite apart from the significant impact this will have on the local economy, I'm also proud that our approach to this exciting new market represents best practice in terms of responsible business."
He said developing a sustainable mining operation in Liberia has necessitated finding solutions to a number of challenges. “To date, ArcelorMittal invested US$800 million in repairing roads and infrastructure, whilst also supporting the need for education and healthcare amongst the local population, through projects including the reconstruction of a 240 km railway, port, and hospital and school facilities - developments that will serve local communities as well as enabling the iron ore mining operation to operate efficiently.”
By 2012, ArcelorMittal aims to ship four million tons of iron ore from Liberia each year, the head of the company which has spent up to US$15 million in socials development funds for Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba counties, where its operations cover, said.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Sirleaf stated that Liberia was back on track and on a great move into the future.
She expressed confidence in the future of the country and lauded ArcelorMittal for being the first company to express confidence in the country's investment potential, before others poured in.
“We are very pleased with, what in effect, meant a clear demonstration of confidence by ArcelorMittal in Liberia's future, because they were the first to make the big move in investment and that served as a force for the many other that came and we have today to invest…” President Sirleaf said.
President Sirleaf explained how her administration, after taking power, called for the renegotiation of the Mittal Steel (now ArcelorMittal) agreement to reflect equal mutual benefit and the interest of the state. She praised the company for fully cooperating with the government and for increasing the investment from US$1bn to US$1.5bn.
“Today, Yekepa [Nimba County, where the mining is taking place] and Buchanan [from where the iron is being shipped] are beginning to come alive again as we knew it when mining took place in the 1970s,” the president said.
With more than 5,000 Liberians said to have benefitted from job opportunities with the company, President Sirleaf called for more Liberians to be included on board, especially in high positions.
“The workers, we wouldn't have been able to go far without them,” President Sirleaf said and lauded the only Liberian Emmanuel Dolo among the senior management team at the company. “But that is now enough, he's just one, and we need at least 10 of them,” the President demanded.
The President said government would, besides building vocational and technical institutions to build the skills of Liberian in technical areas, establish a partnership with ArcelorMitttal that will see more Liberian take over senior management positions.
The Liberian leader also reminded the head of the Company of its promise to pave the Ganta-Sanniquellie Road in Nimba County.
“I am holding you to another commitment, that commitment that you made in December 2007 that there will be the paving of the road from Ganta to Sanniquellie,” the President said.