Liberia to revise mining code, minister says

Fri Nov 9, 2012 6:26am EST

* Minister says resource investment hasn't helped Liberians

* Mining code dates back to 2000

* Many African states reviewing mining laws to boost income

MONROVIA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Liberia plans to revise its mining laws to ensure the West African country's resources benefit ordinary people, Lands and Mines Minister Patrick Sandolo said in a statement aired on national radio on Friday.

Liberia remains one of the world's poorest and least developed countries despite attracting a flood of foreign investment in its rich minerals deposits since the end of a civil war in 2003.

It is the latest in a string of African countries to announce mining code reviews to boost state share in resource profits, including Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast.

"It is universally considered that this country has nothing to show for the trillions of (Liberian) dollars which have been earned from exploitation of our minerals," Sandolo said.

"The challenges that our nation faces are fundamental, and the responses we fashion in response have to be equally fundamental," he said, announcing the planned review of the country's code, drawn up in 2000.

ArcelorMittal, the world's top steel maker, last year restarted Liberia's first iron ore shipments since the war and has plans for a big expansion in its operations. BHP Billiton, Affero, and China Union are also developing iron ore projects.

Sandolo did not say what kinds of revisions would be adopted or whether they would be applied retroactively to existing contracts. He said officials would start work on new proposals later this month.

"Generally, there is need for the law to be revised to show true stability to the principle of transparency and accountability," he added.

Liberia is also in the midst of drawing up an oil code as companies such as Chevron and Anadarko explore offshore.

The government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has come under increasing pressure to ensure the country's resource contracts are fair, after advocacy group Global Witness said some timber and oil contracts appeared to have been marred by fraud and mismanagement. (Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by James Jukwey)

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