By: Jerromie S. Walters
The House of Representative has mandated its committees on Mines and Energy, Judiciary and Ways, Means and Finance, to probe matters surrounding the recent wave of reports of the controversial operation of Western Cluster, a mineral company operating in Bomi County.
According to a communication read at the second day sitting of the first quarter of 6th session of the House of Representatives, brainstormed on actions to be taken on the company, for allegedly breaching the MDA signed between they and the Government of Liberia in 2011.
Following hours of dialogue, with intrinsic points from different Lawmakers on the House’s next action, it was resolved that the committee on Mines and Energy, Judiciary and Ways, Means and finance, launch an investigation in the matter.
The committees are expected to report within a period of two weeks.
The House’s mandate comes, following a communication from Nimba county District #5 Representative Samuel Kogar, seeking the indulgence of Plenary to have the operations of the Western Cluster Liberia Limited halted with immediate effect and an investigation be carried out against the backdrop of mounting public outcry and the Management be invited by the Plenary.
It can be recalled that on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, Western Cluster broke grounds to recommence its operations in Bomi. The groundbreaking ceremony came barely a few days after the government signed the MOU with the company.
The MOU was signed following the failure of the company to implement the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) it signed with the government in 2011 due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus and the drop in the price of iron ore on the world market.
It gives the company the right to operate at three iron ore deposits, including the Bomi Hills Mines, in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu Counties.
But following the signing of the MOU and commencement of operations of the company, the citizens, especially those from Bomi County have been raising series of issues ranging from the unilateral decision taken by their caucus to renegotiate the deal without their input, construction of the roads, and disagreement over the trucking of the iron ore, amongst others.
In the MOU signed, Western Cluster, which was indebted to the government in the tone of US$23million, has been mandated to pay the amount of US$10million to the government.
The company initially paid the amount of US$5million for the issuance of a Class A mining license by the government, through the Ministry of Mines and Energy following the signing of the MOU.
The document further called for payment of the remaining US$5million not later than 45 days from the date of the first shipment of iron ore by the company.
It also called for Western Cluster to provide the amount of US$3million as contribution for the rehabilitation of the corridor between the St. Paul Bridge and the Freeport of Monrovia.
The amount shall be payable by the company in two equal installments; and the leasing of the LMC and NIOC piers at the Freeport of Monrovia by the Western Cluster.
For the reconditioning of the road by filling potholes from the Bomi Hills Mines to the St. Paul River, the MOU mandates the company to pay contractor during repair to the extent of US$1.5 for road.
The Ministers of Mines and Energy, Finance and Development Planning, Justice and the Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC) Gesler Murray, Samuel Tweah, and Molewuleh B. Gray signed the MOU on behalf of the Liberian government, while Chetan Savant Head of Projects of Western Cluster signed on behalf of his company.
Howbeit, the MDA signed between the Government of Liberia and Western Cluster in 2011 mandates the company to provide the amount of US$2M as benefits to the affected communities.
The amount of US$200,000 annually is to also be provided for education to Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu Counties.
The company has been mandated to provide housing facilities, job training opportunities both locally and international, health care opportunities for employees in its concession areas.
According to the MDA, the company must also provide education opportunities for employees’ children between the ages of 5 to 21 years old by constructing a General School for them.
It was requested to truck iron ore from Bomi to the Freeport of Monrovia by putting in place all necessary security and environmental measures for a three year-period following the completion of its railway construction.