MONROVIA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - China-Union Investment has made its first shipment of iron ore from Liberia since taking over Bong Mines in 2008 with a $2.6 billion investment, an important step in the economic revival of the West African state.
The company shipped 50,000 tonnes of ore worth around $1 million in royalties, $2.5 million in tax revenue and $3.5 million in social contributions, China-Union officials said.
China-Union took over Bong Mines, located around 150 km (94 miles) northeast of the capital, with one of the largest sums put into the country since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was first elected in 2005 following a civil war.
It aims to ship 10 million tonnes by 2016. As part of the deal, the firm agreed to pave the road to the town of Kataka.
Iron represents one of Liberia’s key resources but the sector was decimated by decades of under investment and production at Bong Mines stopped during a conflict that started in 1989 and finally ended in 2003.
“In 2009, when we made the first visit to Bong Mines, it took us hours to get from Kakata to that point. Upon arrival there were no schools, no jobs, no hospital,” Sirleaf said at a ceremony on Wednesday at the free port of Monrovia.
“Though we have not reached where we want to be, we have come a long way,” she said.
ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, BHP and other firms have moved into the country to tap iron ore reserves. (Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and David Evans)