Liberia has rich mineral deposits. Historically, mineral extraction, particularly iron ore, gold, and diamonds, has been a leading export sector. The major minerals are exported mainly in raw or semi-finished forms. In addition to large iron ore deposits, there are substantial diamond and gold deposits and indications of manganese, bauxite, uranium, zinc, and lead deposits. Diamond deposits, primarily exploited via alluvial and non-mechanized diamond mining, are predominant throughout the country.
The Government issues Kimberly Process (KP) Origin Certificates, which enable the legal export of rough diamonds to other KP member countries. With the gradual recovery in global iron ore prices, iron ore mining plays a significant role in the economy, accounting for 42 percent of total export earnings in 2019. ArcelorMittal, which has invested heavily in the sector, has iron ore and metallurgical coal reserves in the Mount Nimba range. The only large-scale international company currently engaged in iron ore mining operations, its multi-billion-dollar mineral investments include 243 kilometers of the rail line connecting its Tokadeh mine in northern Liberia to the Port of Buchanan, roads, electrical plants, and housing facilities for workers, and other critical physical infrastructure. The company is revisiting plans to expand its Tokadeh mine. ArcelorMittal is currently producing and exporting iron ore to customers in Europe and Asia.
Artisanal mining, traditionally carried out primarily by unlicensed and illegal miners, contributes to the country’s economy through royalties and taxes paid by licensed dealers. There are different mining activities in the Liberian mining sector, including artisanal/small-scale miners (ASM), medium-sized domestic enterprises, large-scale mining, and exploration companies. Currently, there are 1293 mining operations in the country, of which 1142 (88.3%) are ASM, 65 (5%) are medium size, 78 (6%) are exploration companies, and 8 (0.6%) are large-scale enterprises. Among the large-scale companies, the primary producers are Arcelor Mittal (iron ore), China Union Investment (iron ore), MNG Gold Inc. (gold), and Aureus Mining Inc. (gold). The ASM is also involved in the extraction of gold and diamond. However, the development of these ASM operations is limited because of a lack of resources and infrastructure.
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