ArcelorMittal Suspends All Rail Activities Following Derailment in Nimba

SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba – Barely 24 hours after a train belonging to ArcelorMittal was derailed in Zuluyee, Nimba (about 205 km from the Buchanan port), the mining giant has announced a temporary suspension of all rail activities as a team is being mobilized to help recover the losses incurred by the company.

A locomotive carrying 66 wagons loaded with iron ore partially derailed while traveling from Mount Tokadeh to Buchanan at about 4:15 a.m. on Saturday, June 13. Some of the wagons were partially damaged, but the majority left on the train and were taken to the Port of Buchanan.

The derailment caused extensive damage to the railroad, prompting the temporary suspension of rail activities as the company will be unable to transport iron ore from Mount Tokadeh to Buchanan in the coming days.

In a press release issued on Sunday, the company announced that there were no injuries or serious environmental impacts as a result of the accident.

Though the actual cause of the derailment remains unknown, ArcelorMittal says it has commenced investigation to establish if there was a possible mechanical failure or malfunction on one of the wagons that led to the accident.

The company announced that to restore operations as soon as possible, its engineers are working on the rail and all necessary safety and COVID-19 precautions were being ensured for employees and the local community. The company also said it would ensure that the environment was protected.

Some of the wagons containing ore that were derailed. Photo: Jerry Myers

The June 13 derailment is the second to happen in four years. On August 2, 2016, a derailment occurred in LAMCO Camp, Bong, while the locomotive was traveling to Buchanan.

While many Liberians have taken to social media to empathize with the company for the accident, some are calling on ArcelorMittal to consider rebuilding the entire track because the rail has lasted beyond its useful life. The 267 km railroad was constructed in the 1960s by the Liberian-American-Swedish Mining Company to transport iron ore from Nimba to Buchanan for export.

In Zuluyee, a prominent resident attributes the derailment to “poor maintenance” of the railroad by the company. Roger Kwitee recalled that during the days of LAMCO, residents saw more routine maintenance of the track. The reduced maintenance, he said, means that most of the logs on which the railroad is constructed are rotten. He called on the company to rebuild the entire track from Yekepa to Buchanan to avoid a repeat of such a situation.

He said it is the first time citizens of Zuluyee are witnessing such an accident since the railroad was constructed by LAMCO in the 1960s.

“When the company came, we thought they were going to rebuild the track, but they only reconditioned they track and this is what caused this accident,” Kwitee noted.

A damaged portion of the track following the derailment. Photo: Jerry Myers

He said he was glad the accident occurred at night. Had it occurred in the day, Kitwee said it could have been disastrous because many people walk along the track in the day. He, however, expressed a need to see the company clear the track of the debris, which he said was blocking the path for residents.

“We are not benefiting from the company’s operation and our farm roads have been blocked and there is no way for us to go to the creek to wash our clothes,” Kitwee said. “Trains have killed people on this track in different communities and look at the kind of embarrassment this accident will cause us for the time this train will be lying here for.”

Featured photo by Jerry Myers

Jerry Myers

Jerry T. Myers, Jr. is a student of the Nimba County Community College, studying Natural Resource Management. Since 2008, Jerry has worked in the media sector, including at the Voice of Tappita community radio station, ELBC Radio, Radio Nimba, and New Public Trust Media Group. He is the current secretary-general of the Nimba Community Radio Association and a full member of the Press Union of Liberia.

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