Home Economy ‘Controversial’ HPX Returned… As US$37M Payment In Limbo

‘Controversial’ HPX Returned… As US$37M Payment In Limbo

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MONROVIA: With less than three months of the Joseph Boakai led administration in state power, the controversial US-based High-Power Exploration (HPX), has returned to Liberia with new investment portfolio, valued about US$5 billion.
Prior to HPX’s return in February, the Company has come under public spotlight in Liberia in relation to its controversial and mouthwatering payment of US$37million to the Liberia’s former administration, headed by former football legend, George Manneh Weah, as the current status of the funds hangs in the balance.
The latest return of HPX to Liberia has been marred by controversy bordering on alleged financial irregularities, thus exposing the venture to suspicions, leading to mounting calls for due diligence and public scrutinizing.

HPX, an American Company, described its previous payment of whooping US$37 million into the Liberian Government’s Revenue Account at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), between December 2019 and March 2022 as “a Refundable Gesture of Goodwill.”

The erstwhile Weah-led government and HPX Group subsidiaries Ivanhoe Liberia and SMFG entered into a Framework Agreement on 20, December, 2019, to set forth negotiation of an agreement to secure sufficient rail and port infrastructure in the Yekepa-Buchanan rail and port corridor to be able to evacuate iron ore from HPX’s Guinean-Nimba Iron Ore Project.

The Framework Agreement, as amended, was announced and received strong support from the Government of Liberia, according to HPX’s statement issued on Tuesday, December 19, 2023.

Since 2019, the HPX continues to negotiate with the Government of Liberia on terms and payments that would be payable to the Government once the final agreement is signed, the statement added.

HPX said at the time that the Framework Agreement merely committed the parties to engage in good faith negotiations of a concession agreement on terms that would provide access to government-owned rail and port infrastructure.

According to the HPX statement at the time, “it was not an agreement for the actual use of those assets, and it did not require ratification under Liberian law.”

The company clarified, then, that the payment of the USS$37 million was done through the United States Government’s Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

It further explained, then, that HPX agreed, as “a Gesture of Goodwill, to make refundable advance payments” to the Government of Liberia at its official request of some of the anticipated fees and taxes that would be due and payable to Liberia, if and when a binding concession agreement came into force.
If none did, the statement added, these advanced payments would be refundable to the HPX Group.
“These advanced payments into the Government of Liberia Revenue Account at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), then, consisted of US$7 million in December 2019 and US$30 million in March 2022,” the company disclosed.

“The advanced payments are refundable if certain milestones relating to the negotiation and implementation of the concession agreement are not met,” the company narrated.

As it stands today, the statement indicated that several of these milestones have been missed and the HPX Group has reserved its rights to seek refund of the upfront payments.
It detailed that the HPX remains committed to the development of a world-class infrastructure corridor, owned by the Government of Liberia, and operated under the principles of non-discriminatory, multi-user access with each participant to meet responsible access charges, under the oversight of an independent operator not linked to mining operators.

HPX says it remains committed to supporting the Government of Liberia to achieve this vision and welcomes full transparency of all transactions and dealings between the Government mining companies and other concessionaires.

“As a US Company, HPX, and its directors and management remain committed to and strongly embrace the highest standards of ethical behaviors that are in line with community and government expectations not only in Liberia but internationally and are subject to and committed to fully complying with the laws of Liberia, the United States of America and other jurisdictions governing all such transactions,” HPX, then, asserted.

HPX’s clarifications, followed US Department of Treasury’s sanctioning of Liberia’s former Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah in December, who categorically denied allegations of involvement in “significant corruption” including acts of bribery.

Tweah denied any wrong doing and described the US government’s sanctions as unfair.

“I have never influenced legislative processes” whatever that implies,” Tweah added.

Tweah: “Specific reference to the mining sector confuses me but I believe this reference pertains to my involvement to developing a multi-user gateway through the third amendment of ArcelorMittal’s current concession and through granting rail access to HPX, an American company looking to transport rail from Guinea through Liberia.”

He told journalists in December that about a year ago in Washington D.C., he received hints that persons connected with an American company, High Power Explorations Inc. (HPX) were trying to get him on Treasury sanctions because he was allegedly or supposedly “favoring AccelorMittal Limited (AML) over HPX, and preventing HPX from accessing the rail to conduct its investment in Guinea through Liberia.

“My informant knew this was unjust and unfair, knowing the role I was playing on the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee and understanding the difficulties and complexities of the negotiation. I was also informed that persons close to HPX were considering sanctions against me because the company had paid US$37 million to the Government of Liberia through the national budget since 2019 and was yet to have an agreement with the Government,” Tweah added.

According to the former Liberian Finance Minister, “Legitimate monies received by the Government of Liberia for the development of Liberia through the national budget is never a bribe.”

“That an agreement has been difficult to reach because of complexity surrounding a pre-existing agreement is no reason to threaten government officials with sanction.

“I was advised that to avoid sanction, I should withdraw my support for ArcelorMittal third amendment until after the election. It was on this basis that I advised President Weah to turn over negotiations on the rail to the U.S. Government since too much propaganda and misinformation were threatening to destroy members of his government.

“The president obliged and the Americans for a brief moment tried to bring both HPX and ArcelorMittal together to reach some understanding on the multi-user rail system.

“Meetings were held in London and Washington. Unfortunately, these meetings did not achieve anything, and the Americans withdrew and turned negotiations back to the Government of Liberia,” Tweah, then, averred.

The former Finance Minister : “The truth of the matter is that ArcelorMittal has an agreement with the Government of Liberia signed by the Unity Party Government that gives ArcelorMittal the right to use the Nimba rail and to be an operator of this rail. In the government’s vision to develop a multiuser rail system, we have tried to have ArcelorMittal relinquish operatorship of the rail to an Independent third-party rail operator for purposes of fairness and equity.”

However, former Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara Konneh, and ex-Finance Minister Tweah have been embroiled in bitter fray over the legitimacy of a US$37 million payment made by High Power Exploration (HPX) to the then Government of Liberia (GOL) through the National Budget since 2019.
Konneh, now Senator of Gbarpolu County said the payment received by the then Liberian administration was not only shrouded in secrecy and done without Legislative agreement. Konneh maintains that former Minister Tweah violated provisions of the Amended and Restated Public Procurement and Concession (PPCC) Act and Public Financial Management (PFM) Act.
Senator Konneh further asserted that the payment by HPX has been shrouded in secret and that the Liberian people had no knowledge of it until the recent sanctions on former Minister Tweah and others.
“Up till Thursday, the Liberian public knew little or nothing about the GOL-AML-HPX deal. It had been a secret,” Senator Konneh said.
Though the money was received without a ratified concession agreement by the Legislature, which many say by law was illegal, Tweah termed the money as legitimate money — by virtue of it being received through the National Budget, and as such, he should not be punished for it.
Recently, the Joseph Boakai administration signed an investment communication with the same HPX, styled: “Letter of Intent” with HPX and Guma Africa Group, to enter into negotiations over the Joint Development of the Liberty Corridor, connecting Guinea and Liberia.

Bronwyn Barnes, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of, High Power Exploration (“HPX”), announced the signing of the “Letter of Intent” with the new Government of Liberia and the Guma Africa Group Ltd to enter into negotiations to own, design, finance, develop and operate the Liberty Corridor-a brand new multi-user infrastructure corridor connecting Guinea and Liberia
According to “Letter of Intent”, the Liberty Corridor will comprise a brand-new World-class rail system connecting Guinea to a brand-new deep-water Port at Didia, Liberia, an extension of the existing Hydropower Network from Ivory Coast into the Nimba districts of Liberia and Guinea, an upgrade of existing road networks in Nimba district to all-weather roads and the implementation of fibre optic telecommunications cable, connecting Liberia to the Nimba district and potentially beyond.

The Liberty Corridor would be a Joint Development between the Government of Liberia, HPX and the Guma Africa Group, with the three parties who entered into an exclusive 30-day period (which can be extended) during which the final framework agreement will be negotiated. On completion of the final agreement, the document will be presented to the Liberian Legislature for ratification.

The “Letter of Intent” also stated that the Liberia-Guinea multi-user infrastructure corridor has the potential to transform the mineral-rich Nimba region, and for the projects along the railway and roads corridor in Liberia.

The Liberty Corridor will stimulate economic activity in mining, as well as agriculture, manufacturing, health and education.

The corridor will dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of people living in the region and create sustainable regional employment.

The President of Liberia, Joseph Nyuma Boakai Sr., indicated his delight in having this major project with the potential for profound positive impact on the Liberian economy and the region.

Furthermore, the project is consistent with the Boakai administration-ARREST (Agriculture, Road, Rule of Law, Education, Sanitation, and Tourism) agenda which will positively impact those sectors including electricity, telecommunications and the movement of goods and services.

President Boakai noted that the project comes less than a month into his term which potent good news for the country, especially for young people, which will provide jobs opportunities.

“We are happy with the relationship with our American and South African counterparts, especially seeing this project coming in less than a month into my new administration.

“We have to prove to our partners that we are serious, accountable and honest, and that corruption will not be a hindrance to this administration,” stated President Boakai.
The President also thanked HPX management for the determination expressed to operate in Liberia, to provide employment opportunities for Liberians and to contribute to the economic viability of the country.

HPX Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bronyn Barnes said, “HPX is delighted to have formed this partnership with the Government of Liberia and the Guma Africa Group to develop the Liberty Corridor in Guinea and Liberia.”

“President Joseph Boakai has started his Presidency on a strong footing, engaging with industry to build Liberia’s economy.

” We are delighted to have signed this Letter of Intent with the Government of Liberia as we seek to build Liberia’s mining sector in an open and transparent relationship that also delivers benefits to broader industry and community,” said CEO Barnes.
CEO Barnes noted that “HPX looks forward to being part of the growth of Liberia’s mining industry and working collaboratively with the Government of Liberia to expand both the mining sector and multi-user infrastructure opportunities entered around the Liberty Corridor.”

Guma Africa Group’s serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Robert Gumede, said “I am delighted to partner with HPX as we pool our resources to transform both Guinea and Liberia’s economies through the development of the Liberty Corridor that can un-lock mining, agriculture and industrialization of the two countries and the creation of sustainable jobs.

The time for lip services is gone. Our joint partnership with HPX will support Liberia’s long-term investment policies,” Mr. Gumede added.
HPX Chairman, Retired Ambassador J. Peter Pham, also commented when he said, “The U.S. Government’s consideration of the potential for Liberia-Guinea Corridor is extremely encouraging. Ambassador Pham emphasized that this project has the potential to transform the mineral rich Nimba region, and for projects along the railway in Liberia, stimulating further economic activity not only in mining, but also agriculture, manufacturing, health, education aimed at enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of both countries through improved access to the opportunities that a new, world-class infrastructure corridor will offer.
He stressed that the projects are in line with the objectives of the United States Government Strategy towards Sub-Sahara Africa, and the commitment given by President Joseph Biden and the G7 in a flagship infrastructure initiative-the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (“PGI”).

HPX is a US-based mining development company currently focused on expanding production at its high-grade, long-life iron ore mines in the Lola region of Southeastern Guinea.

The company says that the Liberty Corridor, including a new multi-user heavy haul railway, will involve investment estimated at US$ 3-5 billion.
Howbeit, Senator Amara Konneh, disagrees with the usage of the $37 million from HPX, adding it was not legitimate and had been kept secret from the Liberian public until the recent sanctions.
He said Section 88.1 of the Amended and Restated Procurement and Concession Act (PPCC) of 2010 clearly states that “…no concession shall be implemented unless the proposed project has been issued with a certificate for concession.”
Also, Section 5.2(e) of the Amended and Restated Public Finance Management Act (PFM) of 2019 states that resources that become public money upon receipt include proceeds received by the state from the sale or leasing of any property owned by the state.
“By receiving payments from HPX without a consummated concession agreement with the GOL, Minister Tweah violated provisions of both the PFM Act and the PPCC Act, two sacred instruments that Finance Ministers MUST uphold,” Konneh argued.

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