By: Martin Creamer
16th September 2008
Van Niekerk was responding to a Reuters report that the Liberian government had on Monday disqualified DMC and India's Tata Steel from participating in a relaunched bidding round for a $1,5-billion iron-ore project.
To The Point, headed by mining personality Bernard Swanepoel, has an interest in DMC, which is in coal and iron-ore locally, as well as being declared the provisional winner of the Liberian iron-ore opportunity from which it is now being excluded.
Van Niekerk told Mining Weekly Online that he was aware of the press statement in which it had been stated that DMC had been suspended from bidding for the Liberian iron-ore resource, but had not received any official notification.
He was also aware that a Deloitte & Touche study had given DMC a negative rating.
He was “angry” about the manner in which the issue was being handled and had sought legal advice.
He said that DMC had already made significant investments in engaging professional experts in the company’s iron-ore activities in Liberia.
“We have been dealt with very unjustly,” Van Niekerk said, adding that the company would take the matter to a world court if need be.
Before its civil war, Liberia was the world's fifth-largest producer of iron-ore, and, in a separate iron-ore project, Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steelmaker, is reportedly developing a ferrous orebody in north-west Liberia, the reserves of which were estimated at 500-million tons.
South Africa’s Kumba Iron Ore is also contesting an ousting from a Senegalese iron-ore concession in favour of Arcelor Mittal.
DMC states on its website that it has already established DMC Liberia to manage the “Western Cluster Iron-Ore Project within the republic of Liberia”.
It states that the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, wants to develop the iron-ore sector rapidly as an “engine of economic growth and national development”.
“To this end, an invitation to bid for the redevelopment of the iron-ore mining was announced,” the website says.
The Liberian government is said to have declared it “provisional winner” in January and a due diligence process was formalising the project, which is said to include the exploration and mining of the Bomi Hills, Bea Mountain and Mano River iron-ore deposits.
DMC had also assumed responsibility for the provision of infrastructure required for the proposed Liberian iron-ore project, including road, rail, power generation and community development.
The latest statement from the Liberian government was that the bidding process would be relaunched, however.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was recently in South Africa, has looked to foreign investors to boost Liberia’s economic reconstruction effort, including investment in Liberia's iron-ore reserves, estimated at 3,4-billion tons, top in Africa and seventh in the world.
In an earlier bidding round this year, the government placed DMC on top of the short list to win the contract, but after selection process queries, the authorities ordered an investigation, which has culminated in the relaunch, from which DMC and Tata have both been excluded.
Edited by: Martin Creamer