Liberia postpones signing of billion dollar mining deal

Liberia postpones signing of billion dollar mining deal

Liberia postponed the signing of an iron ore mining contract with the world’s largest steelmaker that stands to bring in over one billion dollars (765 million euros) in investment in the war-ravaged state.

Energy and Mines Minister “Eugene Shannon has asked me to inform you… that the program is cancelled and will be set for a later date,” the minister’s spokesman Joseph Matadly told journalists.

He said the government committee charged with approving the deal needed more time to work on the document. The government and the company, Arcelor Mittal, had been due to ink the deal on Tuesday.

“There are some issues that need to put in place before the signing,” he said, declining to give details. “As soon as they can resolve these issues, the agreement will be signed.”

The contract is a revised version of a deal which Arcelor Mittal has said will now involve investment exceeding one billion dollars (765 million euros), from about 900 million dollars planned previously.

The first version of the deal, a 25-year concession giving the steel group access to one billion cubic metres of iron ore, was signed by Mittal Steel in August 2005 — before it acquired the European steel giant Arcelor, creating the world’s biggest steel group.

The Liberian government headed by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, elected five months after the agreement was reached, pushed for the contract to be renegotiated on better terms for the west African country, which was ravaged by civil war from 1989 to 2003.

A Lakshmi Mittal spokesman last week told AFP there had earlier been “disagreement” with Liberia over the contract, “in particular on the amount of royalties” owed.

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