New York, United States of America – Further to its press release on November 11, 2021 (Announcement of positive results of Pre-Feasibility Study), announcing the results of their extensive pre-feasibility study, HPX, SMFG and Ivanhoe Liberia wish to comment further on the issue of access to the Yekepa/Buchanan infrastructure corridor.
HPX, SMFG and Ivanhoe Liberia acknowledge the ongoing review process by the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the National Legislature that is deliberating specific terms of the proposed third amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML). HPX and Ivanhoe Liberia look forward to working with government officials and all relevant stakeholders on the transport provisions contained in this amendment to ensure fair multi-user access to the Yekepa/Buchanan infrastructure corridor, thereby maximising benefits for the Liberian people. Our project is well advanced, with construction starting in 2023, and so these benefits are not a distant prospect.
In 2019, the governments of Liberia and Guinea entered into a bi-lateral agreement that was ratified by the Liberian National Legislature, supporting the transportation of ore mined in Guinea through Liberia, utilizing the Yekepa to Buchanan railway and Buchanan Port. A provisional Right of Access to Transport Services was granted to HPX by the Ministry of Transport of Liberia in August 2021.
HPX, SMFG and Ivanhoe Liberia has reviewed the proposed third amendment to the AML MDA, which has been forwarded to the legislative bodies for ratification. We believe that, while reference is made to multi-user access, the detailed provisions relating to transport issues effectively give AML effective control over the use by other mining companies of this important Liberian owned asset. Without GoL having powers to enforce multi-user access, HPX, SMFG and Ivanhoe Liberia are concerned that our Nimba iron ore project as well as other wealth-creating projects could be jeopardized.
As established in our detailed pre-feasibility study, this project will add to existing direct foreign investment commitments to Liberia by generating an additional USD $600+ million in direct investment into Liberia, create upwards of 500 permanent jobs in construction and operations, and provide unspecified amounts in third party service-related contracts with local companies. Additionally, the use of this infrastructure by Ivanhoe Liberia and other mining companies will generate substantial income for the Liberian treasury. In the case of Ivanhoe Liberia, we propose paying transit fees on a per tonne basis which can be easily monitored in a transparent way. The level of these fees will be established in line with international practice through detailed negotiations with GoL.
HPX, SMFG and Ivanhoe Liberia want to contribute to the long-term prosperity of Liberia and the wellbeing of local communities. Our experience operating in other countries shows that these types of major infrastructure projects can be an important catalyst for local economic development. To that end, we are committed to a number of specific initiatives to support the areas where we will operate. Firstly, we will advocate for the provision of passenger and light freight service on the railroad for local communities and to increase trade and movement between Liberia and Guinea. Additionally, in partnership with other users and GoL, we will commit resources to several community development projects that directly impact health, education and human development. We also want to make sure that there are a number of additional safety measures to better protect the population. We will contribute money to a local development fund carefully managed for the benefit of communities in the region. Finally, we will implement a number of biodiversity conservation and carbon offset measures in particular in the East Nimba reserve in accordance with best practices in environmental protection. Throughout this process we will work with GoL and local communities to ensure our actions meet the highest ethical, social, and environmental standards in line with the provisions of a thorough Environmental and Social Impact Assessment that we are committed to undertake.
We welcome the opportunity to engage further with GoL and The National Legislature, and are ready to elaborate on the comments made in this press release.
Guy de Selliers, Chairman of Société des Mines de Fer de Guinée and Ivanhoe Liberia, added:
“HPX, SMFG and Ivanhoe Liberia are committed to operating the Nimba Iron Ore project and associated infrastructure, both in Guinea and Liberia, in accordance with the highest environmental and social standards. When we make commitments, we abide by them because we know that, as guests in the countries where we operate, we need to earn everyday our social licence to operate.
“We are deeply convinced of the benefits for the Liberian people of opening up this major Liberian owned infrastructure to other users and seek to work constructively with the Government of Liberia, Arcelor Mittal, and other potential users to make this possible”.
HPX is a privately-owned, U.S.-domiciled mineral exploration and development company.
SMFG is a Guinean incorporated mining company. For further information, please visit www.smfg.com.
Ivanhoe Liberia Limited is a Liberian registered mining company and wholly-owed independent subsidiary of HPX. For further information, please visit www.ivanhoeliberia.com.