Home Economy Minister Giddings Compromised? …Downplays US$1.5m for US$200,000 Western Cluster Trucking Of Ores

Minister Giddings Compromised? …Downplays US$1.5m for US$200,000 Western Cluster Trucking Of Ores

by newsmanager

MONROVIA: It appears that President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’s displeasure over the operations of Western Cluster-Liberia has been compromised by the Minister of Public Works, Roland Layette Giddings, according to some pro-government loyalists.

Following President Boakai’s order to shutdown Western Cluster for trucking the country’s reserved iron ores in Bomi County, Minister Giddings hurriedly revoked the transportation permit of the Company, thus disallowing it from trucking ores from Bomi Hills in Bomi County, to the Freeport of Monrovia.

But, few days later, the Minister lifted the ban and accorded Western Cluster more trucking days, something the public has condemned.

Minister Giddings has been widely criticized by Liberians including Bomi County Senator, Edwin Melvin Snowe, for restoring Western Cluster’s road user permit.

Senator Snowe, who is said to have played major role in renegotiating the operations of Western Cluster Liberia Limited, retreated on his previous endorsement of the company to transport iron ores through the roads in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) it signed with the Government of Liberia (GOL) during former President George Weah era.

“I present my compliments and herewith write to bring to your esteemed attention the unhealthy decision from the Ministry of Public Works to restore the Road User Permit (RUP – 220620-004) of Western Cluster Limited to transport iron ore from the Bomi Hill Mines to the Freeport of Monrovia, amidst continued violations of terms and conditions enshrined within the Mineral Development Agreement with the Government of Liberia,” Senator Snowe wrote.
His assertions were contained in a communication addressed to the Plenary of the Liberian Senate, dated June 11, 2024.

In addition to the restoration of the Road User Permit, he observed that the Ministry of Public Works has instructed Western Cluster Liberia Limited to increase its fleet of trucks from 50 to 125, making double trips each, resulting in 250 trips per night.

Senator Snowe: “totally unacceptable” for the government to continue to allow the company to transport iron ores, noting that, “the allowable gross load has increased from 30 to 45 tons per truck, using damaged bridges along the road corridor.”

He accused Minister Giddings of turning himself into a ‘Super Minister’ who is controlled by no one, but continues to undermine the President’s intent to suspend Western Cluster permit.

On May 3, 2024, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai suspended Western Cluster’s Road User Permit for being in violation of its Mineral Development Agreement and personally informed the company through its legal team of a potential closure.

The President warned that if the government didn’t close Western Cluster Mining Company down, Liberia would lose major bridges and it might be disastrous for the country.

“I just met the lawyer for Western Cluster this morning and I told him we’re going to close them down. Minister, let me tell you, if we don’t close Western Cluster down, we’ll lose those bridges and it’ll be disastrous… I went on the hill the last time, Western Cluster is not mining, they’re just taking our resources and we get no reward for it. I told him emphatically this morning that we’re going to close them down… if they want to invest further, then build a railway,” the Liberian leader warned.

Under the permit, the company was mandated to transport iron ores from 7PM to 6AM between the Bomi Hills to Freeport-Monrovia corridors.

But the government observed that Western Cluster was trucking iron ores throughout the day and night, contrary to the limitation stipulated in their permit.

Surprisingly, on June 5, 2024, Public Works Minister Giddings restored the road user per of the Company to take 30 tons of payload and 15 tons for empty weight of truck and total number of trucks should not exceed 125 trucks; and each truck should make at most two trips per day, which is equivalent to 250 trips per day; and with a payload of 30 tons, the total number of weights per day must be 7,500 tons per month and 2.7 mega metric tons per annual.

In a communication to Joseph Coelho, Chief Executive Officer of Western Cluster, Minister Giddings said his decision to lift the suspension was based on the company’s compliance in providing US$200,000 for repairs of the road from Klay Junction to the St. Paul Bridge and the receipt of the assessment report to provide for the railway bridge parallel to the St. Paul Bridge.

“The foregoing Restoration of the Road User Permit” is predicated upon WCL compliance in providing US$200,000 for repairs of the road from Klay Junction to the St. Paul Bridge and the receipt of the assessment report to provide for the railway bridge parallel to the St. Paul Bridge.

“In view of the foregoing, this communication serves as an official notification to the effect that the Road User Permit (RUP—220620-004) is hereby restored,” Minister Giddings wrote in the communication.

In 2011, Western Cluster signed a Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the erstwhile government of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for the exploration and mining of iron ores at the Bomi Hills Iron Ore Deposit.

The company was denied a Class-A license for its failure to live up to the MDA signed with the government at the time. Western Cluster departed Liberia prior to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in 2014, leaving behind unpaid taxes amounting to US$23m.

But, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led government of ex-President George Manneh Weah renegotiated and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the company to resume its operations in Liberia.

The MOU was signed on behalf of the government by the then Ministers of Justice, Finance and Development Planning, Mines and Energy, and the head of the National Investment Commission (NIC).

The MOU states that Western Cluster should pay road repair fee of US$1.5 million upon resumption to truck the ores from Bomi to Monrovia. Again, that MOU was reportedly ignored by Minister Giddings for the little US$200,000 for the country.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment