LIBERIA: SECRET DEAL IN MINING SECTOR REVEALED

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Africa Intelligence, a Pan-African News Magazine, says it has gained access to the confidential deal which gives the global steel giant a virtual monopoly on iron ore in Liberia at the expense of Solway Mining.

According to the Pan-African Magazine, a 27-page “private and confidential” deed of settlement has been ratified by the Liberian government that sets out the modalities of the withdrawal and transfer of mining licenses to the benefit of ArcelorMittal.

“The fruit of closed door negotiations between the global steel giant and the government, it confirms ArcelorMittal’s acquisition of Solway Mining’s license to explore for iron ore. The deed, which Africa Intelligence has obtained a copy of, also terminates the graphite mining licenses of Mekinel Holdings and SRG Liberia.” The magazine assumes.

Africa Intelligence says that the deal is being closely scrutinized by the US administration, which suspects dubious financial maneuverings and is not ruling out the possibility of imposing sanctions on several ministers and advisers to President George Weah, who is campaigning for a second term in the election on 10 October (AI, 29/09/23).

“ArcelorMittal’s compliance department is concerned about the risks the transaction entails and has suspended several transfers of funds to the Liberian treasury, according to our sources. The deed of settlement agreed in late June provides for the Liberian government to take “all measures required” for the transfer and withdrawal of rights granted to other companies in ArcelorMittal’s sphere of operations in Nimba County in north-eastern Liberia. In exchange, the group run by its founder Lakshmi Mittal and his son Aditya Mittal has undertaken to pay, within ten days of recovering the Solway Mining license, $17.5m into the government’s 2023 revenue account at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). When the election is over, the steel firm is then expected to credit this budget line with $37.5m. This sum falls within the framework of the ratification of the third amendment to the mining development agreement that was signed by the government and Weah in 2021 before being rejected by parliament the following year.” Africa Intelligence says.

According to the Pan-African magazine, to date, only a first instalment of $500,000 has been paid to the government to secure the transfer of Solway Mining’s license.

“The other payments appear to be frozen. Within the group, which is headquartered in Luxembourg, the deal concluded by the Cyprus-registered ArcelorMittal Liberia Holding and Swiss-registered ArcelorMittal Holdings AG is raising compliance concerns. When contacted by Africa Intelligence, the group declined to comment on the licence transfer but said that it “always acts with the highest levels of integrity”. The deed of settlement stipulates that each party waives all rights to make claims or file lawsuits. It was signed for the Liberian government by Mines Minister Gesler E. Murray, Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah Jr, and National Investment Commission head Molewuleh Gray.

All three are on the list of Liberian politicians facing possible US sanctions, according to our information. As are other senior members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), whose election campaign (seemingly financed from difficult-to-trace sources) is being orchestrated by Lenn Eugene Nagbe, head of the Liberia Maritime Authority.” The Magazine said.

According to the Pan-African Magazine, Swiss-based Solway Mining is expected to challenge the agreement between ArcelorMittal and the Liberian government.

“We understand that its CEO Dan Bronstein was not informed by the Liberian authorities that his license was being withdrawn and awarded to ArcelorMittal. The US-Canadian billionaire Robert Friedland is also considering taking the case to arbitration. He is expected to instruct his lawyers, who include the law firm White & Case, to initiate proceedings if the next Liberian government does not reverse the agreement.” Africa Intelligence concludes.

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