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ArcelorMittal Liberia iron ore train
Iron ore train operated by ArcelorMittal Liberia
hauled by a General Electric ES44AC 4400hp Co-Co diesel electric locomotive

Plans for a railway in Liberia emerged as early as the 1870s, but never came to fruition. The first railways were constructed in the 1960s in conjunction with iron ore mining.

In 1960, the Mano River Railway opened, a 148km, 1067mm gauge line, from mines near Kongo on the Mano River border with Sierra Leone, to the port of Monrovia. It closed in 1989 as the result of civil war and did not reopen.

In 1963, a 267km standard (1435mm) gauge railway opened from mines at Yekepa, near the border with Guinea, to a new port at Buchanan. It was known as the Lamco Railway, after the company operating the mines. The mines and the railway closed in 1992 as a result of civil war. In 2006, Mittal Steel (later ArcelorMittal) was awarded a concession to rehabilitate and operate 243km of the now publicly owned railway from Monrovia to serve its mining operations in Tokadeh. Services commenced in 2011.

In 1964, the Bong Mining Railway opened, a 77km standard gauge railway from mines in the Bong Range area to Monrovia. It closed around 1989 as a result of civil war. It reopened in 2006 for the purpose of transporting stockpiled ore for export from the closed mine, but operated only erratically. Mining resumed in 2014, providing a regular traffic source for the railway, but this ceased in 2016 when both mine and railway closed.

In 2022, the Liberian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nimba Iron Ore Mining Project, located in Guinea, which would give the company access to Buchanan via the former Lamco Railway. This would involve shared access with ArcelorMittal of the existing line between Buchanan and Tokadeh, the rehabilitation of the remaining section of line between Tokadeh and Yekepa, and a 2 to 3km stretch of new line to the border with Guinea, where it would connect with a short section of line from the mines at Nimba. The finally completed project may involve construction of a new port facility near Buchanan.

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Photo image © ArcelorMittal Liberia