ArcelorMittal to expand Liberia mining operations

The Yekepa mines in Liberia Photo: ArcelorMittal

The Yekepa mines in Liberia Photo: ArcelorMittal

Luxembourg-based steel company ArcelorMittal has signed a landmark agreement with Liberia to ramp up production of iron ore in the country into “one of the largest mining projects in West Africa.”

Announced on 10 September, the deal will see ArcelorMittal invest $800m (€679m), increasing production to 15m tonnes per year with the option of doubling this number to at least 30m in future.

The expansion project will encompass processing, rail and port facilities, with more than 2,000 jobs expected to be created during the construction phase. Liberians are expected to fill the majority of roles created.

Liberia ranks 175th out of 189 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index, with only 20% of the labour force considered skilled. Nearly two thirds of Liberia’s population live in poverty.

The country is rich in natural resources, including iron ore, diamonds and gold, but “the economic potential of these assets remains largely untapped,” according to a World Bank report.

ArcelorMittal in 2005 signed a Mineral Development Agreement with Liberia to begin mining operations. The 25-year deal sees the company pay $3m annually to community development projects in the counties where it operates, as well as running medical and education facilities for employees, their families and the wider community.

The expansion of the agreement announced on 10 September will also see ArcelorMittal launch a training and development programme for Liberian employees to gain experience in the company’s global operations.

“This agreement demonstrates to the world that Liberia welcomes foreign direct investment and is a key emerging destination for capital. It further supports the Government’s ’Pro Poor’ agenda, which is underpinned by the importance of creating jobs to lift Liberian citizens out of poverty,” said George Manneh Weah, president of Liberia, in a statement.

ArcelorMittal in 2020 produced 58m tonnes of iron ore. The steel producer is the largest foreign investor in Liberia, having poured $1.7bn into the country since signing the Mineral Development agreement.