A Dark day in Liberia—Awarding the Western Cluster Mining Concession to Elenilto:
One of the Worst Commercial Contracts in Liberian History
By: Rufus S. Berry II
Something that belongs to the Liberian people was given to Elenito for FREE. Elentio sold the contract granted to them by the Liberian government for over $194 million, then closed its doors and walked out of the country with about $140 million. I am filled with frustration when it comes to our government's ability to work in the interest of the Liberian people and protect our assets. Once again, I am reaching out to the Liberian people through this article calling for criminal investigation as to how a company with no proven history in mining, questionable financial records and a lack of due diligence could win such a bid to mine one of Liberia's richest reserves—enough is enough! A cloud of corruption, incompetence and arrogance taint the award of the Western Cluster mining concession to Elenilto. One wonders how much more a fractured country, still recovering from a civil war can take.
The government of Liberia was repeatedly warned by a well respected Liberian - Mr. Sam P. Jackson, both the Liberian Observer and the Frontpageafrica news organization that this was terrible deal and that the concession shouldn't be awarded to Elenilto, a scrap metal dealer in Liberia that had absolutely no experience in mining operations anywhere in the world. On May 18, 2011, I wrote an editorial entitled, "Unjustly Awarded Contracts Damage Our Economy and Credibility: The Western Cluster Mining Concession Deal Awarded to Elenilto." In this editorial, I clearly pointed out that Elenilto did not meet two of the three primary bid requirements:
1) Elenilto did not have verifiable technical and managerial competence to undertake the Western Cluster operations and had not previously successfully invested in and managed a similar operation for at least five years of continuous iron ore mining and produced more than five million tons/annum of iron ore.
2.) Elenilto did not prove to have the requisite financial resources to undertake the rational development of the concession and to modernize existing infrastructure and facilities.
According to the Invitation to Bid for the Mining Concession of the Western Cluster Iron Ore Deposit published by the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy on Monday 1, December 2008, "The successful concessionaire: Must have verifiable technical and managerial competence to undertake the required mining operations, previous successful investment and management of similar operations for at least five years of continuous iron ore mining and beneficiation of more than five million tons/annum of iron ore; and must have proof of requisite financial resources to undertake the rational development of the concession and to modernize existing infrastructure and facilities."
The firm didn't even have the required signing bonus to pay the Liberian government even before the concession was signed as required by law. In order to obtain the required signing bonus of $25 million; Elenilto sold 51% of their interest for 90 million to SESA GOA, an Indian mining conglomerate. This money was then used to pay the GOL the $25 million signing bonus. As a result, the firm pocketed $51.5 million just for signing this initial paper.
The government of Liberia could have sold the project to either the Chinese or Indian firm for $200 million which could have been used on a large investment in both the medical or agricultural sectors. I don't have any evidence to accuse anyone of accepting bribes. However, taking into account our nation's history of corruption with political leaders more concerned with getting rich than lifting the people from poverty, this could perhaps be one of the worst commercial concession in our nation's history.
Ordinary Liberians are asking how this terrible contract went through without certain government officials, including Senators and Representatives, the Speaker of the House along with the two chairmen (former Lands and Mines Minister Eugene Shannon, and former Investment Commissioner Richard Tolbert) of the two committees representing the Liberian government possibly receiving bribes. The Liberian people are extremely upset as to how a company with no proven history in mining, questionable financial records and a lack of due diligence could win such a bid to mine one of Liberia's richest reserves? There has to be, and will be a criminal investigation in this matter regardless of how long it takes.
This concession is the pinnacle of massive corruption by those government officials in both the executive and legislative branches. The government is charged with the responsibility of working for the Liberian people and protecting their natural resources. Those responsible for perhaps the most reckless commercial concession in our nation's history have to be brought to justice. If the Johnson-Sirleaf administration doesn't have the willpower to investigate this matter and severally punish those involved, including elected and appointed government officials, then the next administration in 2017 should do so for the Liberian people. I say without reservation that this is not only a bad deal, it's a deplorable criminal deal that should be investigated either by the present government or our future elected government.
This deal supports the notion that Liberia is a criminal infested country, where government officials are stealing from the people with complete impunity. The Liberian people are getting extremely tired of this nonsense. Regrettably, the typical Liberian is too shackled with meeting his own basic needs to stop and analyze the nature of this terrible deal. However, these same citizens recognize that their government officials are taking advantage of them and have little interest in protecting them.
Liberia has a chronic, pervasive problem with dishonest public dealings. Men in power are often able to behave immorally and irresponsibly, with no consequences for their actions. History has shown that the demise of many great empires begins with moral decay and corruption. The Republic of Liberia will never build itself into a great nation with a morally bankrupt, immoral and dishonest culture.
In her remarks at the commissioning ceremony of her cabinet, the President indicated that those whom she trusts negotiate concessions agreements for Liberia. But instead they negotiated themselves massive accumulated wealth deserving of investigation and punishment.
Madam President, you have my full support in eradicating corruption. I'm willing to use my two decades of professional financial experience at no cost to the Liberian people to aid in these investigations. Now is the time for these single-mindedly, self-absorbed government officials that betrayed the Liberian people to be investigated and severally punished to the full extent of the law.
Enough is Enough.
About the Author:
Rufus S. Berry II, (former President of the Liberian Community of Northern California - LCNC) and the author of many articles including: "Liberia's Long History of Corruption, Facilitated by Citizens that Turn a Blind Eye on the Government, "Mr. John S. Morlu II: You disappointed Thousands of Liberians", "Preemptive Health Measures will save Thousands of Liberian Lives: Ban Smoking in Public Places", Shame on Liberia's Ministry of Health for Harboring an Alleged Child Molester and Fugitive from Justice.
He can be reached at (510) 393-1825 – 0886-362332 or firstname.lastname@example.org