On a tour to the concession area of the company the communication manager in Yekepa, Nimba County Jerry Nwagbe told a team of journalists that phase one of the company’s operation with the total cost of 800 million was solely focused on infrastructure; the building the railways and the setting up of its offices and other facilities.
Arcelor Mittal operates a 243 kilometers of railroad, running north-south between Buchana and Tokadeh in Nimba County connecting the company’s mining operation and its port.
Since its operation in the past few months there have been complaints from citizens including authority of Nimba county to halt or revisit the operation of the company on grounds that the company’s operations was not impacting he lives of the citizens in the area.
A clear example of such are the poor housing facilities for the workers, these houses are structures that were being used by the former LAMCO Iron ore companies in Yekepa that closed down due to the two Liberian civil war of 1989, 1999 to 2003.
About seventy five to eighty percent of those houses are unpainted and in a dilapidating conditions that house the company’s employees and squatters.
On question of why the company has not done enough in rebuilding and rehabilitating the housing facilities for workers? the communication manager in Yekepa Jerry Nwagbe said the company first phase of work was focused more on building its facilities “the railway linking the port of Buchana, Hospital and schools.
” Phase one was a minimum operation; in fact, up till now the company is still doing Direct Shipping Ore, and so the grade is not as high; that means the company will have a complicated problem and we will have close to three thousand (workers); definitely when that happens there will be major renovation of structures to house the workers.
Mr. Nagbeh further stated that ” As employees increase than housing needs, but in the absence of that the company cannot fix the face all the hold houses.
He claimed that the dilapidated buildings are meant for contractors and not Liberians adding that the units are currently occupied by foreign contractors particularly Ghanaian from a sub-contractor group from Ghana Engineers and Planner (E&P).
According to him the mining group coupled with some young Liberian men who went seeking contracts from the company are the once occupying the buildings and not employees which is not the case.
At one of the old houses I took a walk to ascertain for myself who exactly live in the housing units, I came across the wife of one of the employees Madam Felecia Quiwon who currently occupies one of the old housing units.
Her husband was out for work but I got to understand from madam Quinwon, 38 years old and mother of 9 children that her husband and children live in one of the old units.
Madam Quiwon narrated that her husband is an employee of Arcelor Mittal, he works as a power plant mechanic who earns $370 United States Dollars a month from the company but live in old housing unit contrary to what the residence communication manager Yekepa Jerry Nwagbe had said earlier that the unit were not occupied by employees instead a sub-contractor from Ghana Engineers and Planners including few young Liberian who went in search of contracts from the company.
Over seven years of operations , Felecia and her household in the employ of Arcelor Mittal are just one of the many employees working with the company trying to manage the poor housing facilities.
The company claimed to have spent over $ 800 million during its first phase of operations that it said focused on infrastructure with its second phase pending for 2014 in the tone of $ 1.9. billion United States Dollars.
Howbeit; the authority of Nimba County the Assistant Development Superintendent Mr. TeekoTozay, Yorlay said they are still holding discussions with the company to better address some of the issues to improve the lives of the citizens.
Among them are better housing facilities of workers and development of the county.
It can be recall that in this year 2013 the legislative caucus of Nimba County paid a visit at the concession area of Arcelor of which they saw for themselves that the company had not done enough in rehabilitating the housing units and other major structures at former LAMCO something lawmakers saw a bridge of the Mineral Development Agreement.
Meanwhile under the 2005 Mineral Development Agreement between Arcelor Mittal and the government of Liberia under the Investment Plan session 1.3 states” The company is also rehabilitated to rebuilding houses andschools, built and financed by Lamco, in the town of Yekepa”
Source: Evelyn Kpadeh/ Liberia Women Democracy Radio
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