ArcelorMittal Liberia

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Railway – back on track

The history of Liberia's rail transport began shortly after World War II, when the Freeport of Monrovia was completed. In the early 1960s, three long-distance railway lines were constructed in Liberia, mainly for the transport of iron ore from mines to port facilities. About 480km in total length, they were the Mano River Railway, the LAMCO Railway and the Bong Mines Railway. All three of these lines were later closed down, due to the effects of the two Liberian civil wars between 1989-1996 and 1999-2003.

ArcelorMittal Liberia today boasts 243 kilometres of main rail line, running north-south between Buchanan and Tokadeh connecting ArcelorMittal Liberia's mining operation and its port. Without this rail line, the company's work in Liberia is non-existent.

On 1 September 2011, trains began running from Yekepa to Buchanan three times a day – raising the frequency from two trains a day. Each train operates 70 wagons at a speed of 40 – 70km per hour.

With this increase in speed and frequency, there are many concerns regarding safety, especially since residents along the rail have become accustomed to walking, sitting, drying clothes, and using the tracks for many other unsafe acts. The key message that the rail department continues to communicate is "expect a train at any time and from any direction”.

Four locomotives now run on the tracks, hauling up to 75 wagons capable of carrying 90 tons of ore per wagon. There are a total of 195 wagons being used in the railing operation. There are three new General Electric AC4400 evolution locomotive, with 4,400 horse power, capable of hauling 75 loaded wagons, per one locomotive. The fourth locomotive, a refurbished General Motors (GM) GP38, with 2,200 horsepower is used primarily for shunting and work trains.

In 2015, after over two decades of Liberia’s iron ore industry dormancy, Liberia received its first batch of nine professionally trained locomotive operators. The Company turned to expatriates when railing operations started who were employed to move the locomotives and more importantly, train Liberians to eventually take over as locomotive operators. These nine men are pioneers in a new generation of Liberian train drivers.

The company continues to increase the Liberian capacity of its locomotive team with more potential train drivers undergoing training. The plan is to get women applicants to participate in the program should they qualify.

Support services to the rail are done through ArcelorMittal's Green Hill Quarry, which is the rock crushing site of the company in Bong County. The workshop which services the locomotives, wagons and other rail needs are based in Buchanan.