BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa â€“ As a result of a perceived communications gap between ArcelorMittal and local NGOs, the company held a forum with seven organizations to ensure that the companyâ€™s contributions and achievements are better understood.
Held in Buchanan this past weekend, the one-day forum was attended by the Grand Bassa Youth Caucus, the Bassa Women Association for Development, Gorblee Youth for Development, Concerned Youth for Positive Change, and Youth against Tribalism in Africa.
ArcelorMittalâ€™s community liaison officer, Maurier Hutchinson, said engaging the NGOs would help the company communicate more clearly with the organizationsâ€™ stakeholders.
â€œThey know the stakeholders better and being that they are on the ground, they hear what we donâ€™t hear and it is the best way we think we can get feedback from our local communities,â€ Hutchinson said.
She said the forum was borne out of the realization that people in the three counties ArcelorMittal operates in â€“ Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa â€“ trust the local NGOs in their communities.
During the meeting, the companyâ€™s officials explained their development activities in the three counties.
Meanwhile, the acting secretary general of the Bassa chapter of the National Civil Society Council, Samuel Wilson, said residents in areas where the company operates within Grand Bassa are yet to feel the impact of its development activities, although the mineral development agreement requires that affected concession communities should receive at least 20 percent of the social development funds the three counties receive each year.
He said the US$200,000 paid to Grand Bassa by the mining company each year has had no direct impact on the 15 affected communities in the county.
â€œThis has disconnected the company from the communities because they are not feeling the impact at all. The people only see the trains passing, but they donâ€™t know what is actually ongoing. They pay the money to [the] central government and the money doesnâ€™t even reach the people,â€ Wilson added.
He stressed for a change in how social development funds were disbursed, on grounds that citizens are not feeling the impact of the concession. He said many young people in the county also do not benefit from the companyâ€™s scholarship because information about the scholarship is mostly provided on the internet, instead of on billboards or bulletin boards within the county.
Despite the presence of ArcelorMittal in Grand Bassa, Wilson said hundreds of the countyâ€™s young people were still out of job, and the youth do not feel that the company is doing enough to absorb them.
â€œWhen the company first came, several young people of Grand Bassa County were recruited, but most of them were downsized and since then, they have been languishing in the communities,â€ Wilson also noted during the forum.
ArcelorMittalâ€™s community liaison officer promised to take the concerns of local stakeholders to senior manager for action.
The company is one of the largest taxpayers, as it contributes to the government through taxes and payments to the County Social Development Fund.
Photo courtesy of ArcelorMittal