Electoral and Political Uncertainty Forces Billionaire Robert Friedland’s Visit to Liberia: Meets President Weah

The US-Canadian mining magnate billionaire Friedland is grappling with electoral, political, and human rights uncertainty in Monrovia ahead of the Presidential and legislative elections in October 2023. While domestic, regional, and international fingers are crossed for the elections to remain stable before and after in Liberia, Mr. Friendland has made the effort to visit the capital and extend his concerns to President George Weah, while remaining optimistic that Libera’s future is bigger than the October elections and the many opportunities democratic peace and stability can attack to the country post-elections for hundreds of employees, their families, and the domestic market.

In 2022, Mr. Robert Friedland’s company HPX put a pause on operations because of the political uncertainty in Monrovia and Conakry.

High Power Exploration Inc (HPX) in April 2022 signed a framework agreement with the Liberian government securing access to the country’s port and rail infrastructure to export iron ore mined in neighboring Guinea, the company said in a statement.

U.S.-Canadian mining billionaire Robert Friedland’s HPX acquired the Nimba iron ore project in Guinea in 2019 and is planning to start construction next year. HPX expects Nimba to ramp up to an export capacity of 30 million tonnes a year by 2027.

The project, located in Guinea’s southeast near the border with Liberia, depended on authorization to access Liberia’s Buchanan port and railway line to export the steelmaking ingredient.

HPX’s deal with the Liberian government clinched on Thursday, guarantees “non-discriminatory” access to the infrastructure, and sets an end-March 2023 deadline for a definitive agreement on the details of HPX’s access.

Infrastructure use will be shared with ArcelorMittal MT.LU, which runs an iron ore mine in Liberia near the border with Guinea, and operates the railroad from that mine to Buchanan.

HPX said it expects its infrastructure rights to include an extension of the existing rail line from ArcelorMittal’s mine to the Guinea-Liberia border.

There had been speculation that Liberia would grant ArcelorMittal exclusive railway access in an unpublished agreement struck in September.

The deal, in which ArcelorMittal said it would extend its stay in Liberia by at least 25 years and at least triple existing production, was not made public.

Nimba’s total project development costs are estimated at $2.77 billion, with an additional $600 million in direct capital costs for rail and port infrastructure in Liberia, HPX said.

Under the agreement, HPX agreed a passenger and freight service will be an “integral part” of the expanded railroad.