ArcelorMittal's iron ore mining operations in Liberia, West Africa, are being disrupted by the Ebola virus outbreak, prompting the company to declare force majeure and begin the process of moving people out of the country.
At present, the steel giant is mining and shipping 5Mt of iron a year in Liberia from its phase one operations in Yekepa and Buchanan, but the company is planning phase two development with a view to mining and shipping 15Mt and with first production scheduled for the end of 2015.
ArcelorMittal is currently assessing the potential impact of the crisis on the expansion project schedule, but claims it is fully committed to Liberia and intends to re-start construction 'at the earliest opportunity'.
Bill Scotting, CEO of ArcelorMittal Mining said that the clear priority for Liberia was to contain and stop the current outbreak of Ebola. He said that ArcelorMittal was providing full support to the Liberian government and was taking every precaution to protect its employees on the ground in Liberia. According to Mr Scotting, the company has made a long-term commitment to Liberia.
"While the recent developments are very concerning, at present we believe that the emergency procedures and other measures developed and currently in place at all ArcelorMittal sites in Liberia, make it possible to continue our phase 1 operations,” he said.
Among the various measures taken by ArcelorMittal to protect its employees from the Ebola virus are the provision of thermflash scanners to test for fever in all employees and visitors to the company's sites in Liberia. It has distributed 500 full sets of personal protective equipment to ArcelorMittal hospitals and other hospitals and clinics in Nimba, Buchanan and Monrovia. It has also provided training for healthcare workers and employees.
A leading prevention and control expert has conducted Ebola awareness sessions, and the company has employed an infectious disease nurse to serve as ArcelorMittal Liberia's in-house expert. The company is also in regular contact with ISOS (International SOS) and Liberia's Ministry of Health.
According to ISOS, the largest ever Ebola outbreak is underway in several countries in West Africa. "The epidemic continues to grow and spread into new areas, threatening more lives and potentially the economies of affected countries," it said.