The Dialogue: The People of Yekepa against containers as dwelling homes for workers.
The people (dwellers), leaders and stakeholders of YEKEPA formerly the Swedish-America LAMCO concession area now occupied and run by ARCELOR MITTAL LIBERIA (AML), the current largest foreign direct investment in Liberia are accusing the concession of failing to live up to a major term of the multi-billion dollar investment that obligates it to rehabilitate the LAMCO YEKEPA area.
At the gathering of dozens of ordinary community dwellers, local and national leaders and stakeholders on one hand and the AML management on the other, at the latest session of and interactive town hall style platform, the USAID/INTERNEWS-LMA/LMDI Community Media Forum /THE DIALOGUE, the people, leaders and stakeholders presented that ARCELOR MITTAL LIBERIA has failed to live up to a major term of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) that should improve the living conditions of people in the former LAMCO-YEKEPA concession and surrounding areas through the renovation, cleaning and maintenance of the living quarters of YEKEPA and the general rehabilitation of the concession area.
The YEKEPA leaders, stakeholders and people averred that ARCELOR MITTAL LIBERIA has rather chosen to import and construct makeshift and prefabricated containers as living homes of junior and senior staffers of the concession in contrast to the provision of the Mineral Development Agreement provision that requires the renovation of the permanent living quarters and houses that were constructed by the American –Swedish LAMCO, but destroyed by the Liberian civil war.
The government and stakeholders representations led by Nimba county representative, Joseph Nya Somwabi alarmed that the AML has failed to carry out rehabilitation works on key human sensitive facilities like the water treatment plant which should provide portable and usable water for the LAMCO YEKEPA area in keeping with the MDA after 15 years of operation.
Somwabi claimed that the water sources in the YEKEPA or Nimba mountains and surroundings are mercury infested, hence raw water in the area are unhealthy and unfit for human consumption and that is why according to him, LAMCO, the former mining company as a matter of priority built, maintained and used a massive water treatment plant when it ran the Nimba iron ore mines at YEKEPA.
Mercury is a metal that is toxic to living organisms. It exists in several forms, some of which occur naturally in the environment.
Metallic or elemental mercury is an odorless, shiny, silver-white liquid commonly used in thermometers, barometers and fluorescent light bulbs.. Metallic mercury is extremely dangerous. A few drops can generate enough fumes to contaminate the air in a room. Mercury coming in contact with human skin can result in absorption into the blood stream and create potential health problems.
The Nimba representative averred that for 15 years ARCELOR MITTAL, an Indian owned and run Global mining concession has operated at YEKEPA, buying water from the AQUA LIFE commercial water company. AQUA LIFE water is also alleged to be an Indian owned company.
Somwabi wondered why AML chose to purchase bottled mineral water for the thousands of workers it claims to have rather than rehabilitating the YEKEPA water treatment and distribution plant which will ensure general viable and sustainable distribution of portable pipe borne water for their workers and the community.
Also present at the LMDI/LMA DIALOGUE-COMMUNITY MEDIA FORUM Yamein Statutory District Commissioner Thomas Gonotee and Paramount Chief Richard Marteaye decried that the AML is grossly refusing to work with the surrounding communities, especially the leadership and by extension ignoring important corporate social responsibilities to the immediate communities of the concession.
They called on the government to ensure the enforcement of strategically important community living condition needs such as the rehabilitation of the YEKEPA water treatment plant and the renovation of the former LAMCO concession living quarters which AML took over.
Earlier, Mr. Wilmot Yarsiah representing the Liberia National Bureau of Concessions, the concessional monitoring arm of the Liberian Government confirmed that ARCELOR MITTAL has constructed containers for dwelling rather than completing the renovating the former LAMCO YEKEPA concession area dwelling homes in line with the MDA, but said they had urged the company to speed up the general rehabilitation of concession area against the construction of containers as permanent dwelling homes.
For their part, ARCELOR MITTAL representatives to the forum held at the Basket Ball Gymnasium of the African Bible College (ABC) J. Vanii Kiazulu, Community Relations Manager and Winston Daryou, Communications Manager claimed that the AML is progressively carrying out investments on the operational, technical and human resource assets such as rehabilitation of the rail road from YEKEPA through Bong to Buchanan in Grand Bassa.
Kiazulu informed the gathering that the AML has also paid millions in contribution to social and county development funds since its start of operations in the country and invested over $1.7 billion in the country over the past 15 years.
They were largely not specific on what is being done especially with the rehabilitation of key human sensitive facilities such as the living quarters of the former LAMCO YEKEPA area and the water treatment plant which are the main concerns of the people.
They felt short of past achievements but spoke of future plans to fast track the terms if the AML MDA on the rehabilitation of the concession areas mainly YEKEPA, naming the eminent construction of a steal concentration plant and the potential creation of 2000 extra jobs in the process.
The main general concerns of the YEKEPA people are the continuous construction of make shift and refabricated containers as dwelling homes for workers against the renovation of the former LAMCO houses or the construction of durable permanent for workers and the failure by ARCELOR MITTAL Liberia to rehabilitate the water treatment, distribution and supply plant. They want the two concerns addressed rather urgently.
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