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Liberia: Managing expectations

01.01.2015

Liberia is a good example of the importance of understanding and managing community expectations, not only in delivering on those expectations that are reasonable but in being proactive in constantly explaining where we are unable to deliver on expectations; and also in ensuring that all our expectations are understood. In Nimba county, Liberia, we have a large iron mine. We have created thousands of jobs for local people, invested $500 million in roads, schools, hospitals, and training, initiated an extensive programme to improve the livelihoods of those affected by our operations and by the end of 2014 we had also paid $6 million to local farmers.

Members of the local community however, expected the benefits to their livelihoods to be more substantial, and the transformation to happen sooner. This led to demonstrations outside our mining sites, which regretfully escalated to violence, criminal damage and police intervention. The demonstrators alleged that we had not fulfilled the terms of our mining agreement, paid wages, or compensated people for houses and crops affected by our operations. They also claimed we had not invested in local infrastructure. The demonstrations were, in large part, the result of misunderstandings.

We accept we can improve how we manage these expectations, and we will be changing and improving the way we engage with and listen to local communities as a result. After the demonstrations, we stepped up our local meetings, which were very helpful and led to a strengthening of our relations with communities, the government and NGOs. A total of 212 community engagement meetings were held during 2014, and 56 grievances were reported during the period, of which 40 were addressed. We remain committed to Liberia, which is in desperate need of foreign investment after a damaging civil war, as well as the devastation caused more recently by Ebola. You can read more about this in the Community investment section.