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Ebola Halts Some Construction Projects in West Africa

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The developing Ebola crisis in West Africa has prompted some owners to halt projects in affected countries and evacuate employees and contractors. Others are stepping up measures to cushion their employees from the deadly virus that has killed at least 1,060 people and infected another 1,975 across Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Some forecasters see economic impacts from the outbreak on affected countries.

Luxembourg-based steel and mining company ArcelorMittal announced earlier in August that it has suspended the second phase of its iron-ore expansion project in Liberia meant to increase shipments from 4 million tonne-per-year to 15 million by the end of next year. The project cost was not disclosed.

“Due to the evolving situation of the current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, contractors working on the phase two expansion project have declared force majeure and are moving people out of the country. We are currently assessing the potential impact on the project schedule,” the company said in a statement on August 8.

According to published reports, the project's 15 contractors are evacuating about 650 employees. ArcelorMittal has an estimated 500 direct employees in Liberia and an additional 2,100 foreign and local contractors; it invested $1 billion in operations there last year.

In 2013, the mining firm's revenue rose to $79.4 billion, and it produced 91.2 million tonnes of crude steel and 58.4 million tonnes of iron ore.

Elsewhere, Kuala Lumpur-based Sime Darby, now the world’s largest palm-oil producer, has scaled down operations in Liberia, including construction of the first-ever milling plant in Africa that was set to handle increased production next year from an additional 100,000 hectares under cultivation.

Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. says it has evacuated "less than 10 people" from Liberia and "will continue to monitor the situation closely."

Canadian Overseas Petroleum, based in Calgary, has stopped drilling in Liberia, and some of its expats have left the country. Tawana Resources, an Australian iron-ore company, says it had suspended "all nonessential field activities within Liberia" and sent nonessential African workers, expatriates and contractors home.

London-based mining company African Minerals has begun imposing health checks and travel restrictions on employees in the region.

The World Bank predicts the outbreak will shrink economic growth in Guinea, where the crisis began in March, to 3.5% from 4.5% this year. Other forecasts see Ebola-caused slowdowns in Liberia and Sierra Leone, but not in Nigeria, West Africa's largest economy.

 

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