ArcelorMittal and BHP Billiton Deal: What Commitment?
Here we go again just as it was 4 years ago; the announcement of the big deal, then nothing. It all goes underground. If the people of Nimba and Bassa could reach down that hole and grab that porcupine they might ask for a little transparency.
The Nimba and Bassa Communities care very deeply about natural resources, the wildlife and environment. They are entitled to some portion of the benefits resulting from the extractive endeavors that are about to take place on a scale we have never seen before.
ArcelorMittal and BHP Billiton and their sub-contractors must conduct their activities in a manner that recognizes the needs of society and the needs for economic prosperity, national security and a healthy environment. They must commit on paper to integrating social, environmental, and economic principles in the mining operations from exploration through development, operation, reclamation, closure and post closure activities, and in operations associated with preparing our products for further use.
There should be real and tangible targets for development. We should never go down the road of growth without development. It is never too late for public debate. Let Nimba and Bassa Counties be the model for the future development of Liberia as a whole.
If the Nimba and Bassa Communities for a moment could put their ear to the ground, here is what they will be listening for:
Assurance of transparency. the citizens must in someway be part of all decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives, environment and natural resources.
A well-balanced revenue sharing agreement must be made between the Liberian government and these counties.
Money set aside for the control, management and remediation of potential pollution as well as wildlife dislocation.
Reforestation project must cover all areas affected.
Infrastructure improvements and maintenance provisions, roads, bridges, pipe-born water built to state of the art standards.
Hospitals built by Old LAMCO in these counties should be revitalized to meet the needs of the local people with provisions for employment of Liberian staff and capacity building.
In all hiring, Liberians should be given first priority not only for labor-intensive jobs for but also managerial positions within the company. Competitive wages must be paid to the local people.
The Vocational Training Center in Yekepa should be revived to train more local technicians to enable them to gain employment locally.
Liberia's great heritage of natural resources has been handed to us by our ancestors, but we must not forget, at the same time we are only borrowing from our children. A sustainable future is the prize. We are listening........