Business News of 2014-01-14

Newmont involved in galamsey?

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy,Dr Kwabena Donkor, has accused Newmont Ghana Limited of operating the biggest galamsey at its Akyem concession.

According to him, the company’s operations in the Akyem area had no legal leg to stand on.

But in an interview with the Daily Graphic, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, while conceding that the company’s mining agreement was yet to be ratified by Parliament as required by law, stated that the company had a licence from the Minerals Commission.

Newmont Ghana has been accused of operating its Akyem concession illegally but the minister explained that in line with the 1992 Constitution, any investment for the exploitation of natural resources had to go through Parliament and the Minerals Commission.

Processes

The first, he said, was the signing of a mining contract by the President in whom mineral resources were vested and then the agreement was sent to Parliament for ratification.

“There are two phases. Newmont has only met the first phase,” said Alhaji Fuseini in reaction to the claims by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Mining that Newmont Ghana was operating in Ghana illegally.

The minister explained that even though the constitution required that the two processes were met, “unfortunately the constitution does not give a time line. We agree the people of Ghana have to know the nature of the mining agreements the President signs, that is why it has to be ratified.”

He said the constitution did not also state that the contracting party should hold on until the agreement was ratified by Parliament before commencing its mining activities.

More contracts not ratified

On the issue of companies operating without their contracts being ratified by Parliament, the minister stated that there were a number of companies whose contracts were yet to be approved by Parliament.

“It is not only Newmont that is operating without its contract being ratified by Parliament. There are a number of other mining companies in the same situation,” said the minister.

The minister could not tell the total number of companies in that situation.

To ensure that the various contracts were ratified, Alhaji Innusah said he had directed the Minerals Commission to sort out the mining companies in accordance with the nature of operation to be submitted to Parliament for approval.

Though the directive was issued three months ago, the Minerals Commission is yet to furnish the ministry with a full list of the mining companies operating without a ratified agreement categorised according to their nature of mining.

“This does not mean the ministry is oblivious of its responsibility. There has been an attempt even before I was made minister and before Dr Kwabena Donkor went to Parliament, to get the contracts ratified but Parliament said the form in which the document was presented made it bulky and asked that it was sorted out.”

Dr Kwabena Donkor

Speaking on Joy News earlier, Dr Donkor of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy accused Newmont of breaching the country’s mining laws.

“As I speak, Newmont is still in breach of our laws. The company is still operating illegally. It is still involved in large-scale galamsey.

“No mining lease has come to Parliament for ratification, to the best of my knowledge. Therefore, whatever mining is taking place there is illegal,” he said.

He blamed the present regulatory failure on the Minerals Commission saying “we will challenge the Minerals Commission to live up to its mandate.”

That aside, he said, it was the responsibility of the company to respect the law.

He added that the issue would be raised in Parliament again.

He, however, urged civil society organisations to stand up to what he described as an illegal and abuse of the country’s laws.

“We will raise the issue again on the floor of Parliament. I expect civil society groups to take the matter up, even if it means going to court. To enforce our laws, we all have a responsibility to enforce our laws. It is not just a matter of leaving the enforcement in the hands of agencies of state.

“As citizens, those agencies represent us. We are the alluvial owners of the lands of Ghana and, therefore, I expect civil society groups such as Third World Network and other environmental NGOs to go to court, and I’ll be prepared to be a star witness in court,” he stated.

Mr Mohammed Amin Adam

Responding to the call on CSOs, the Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy, Mr Mohammed Amin Adam, observed that the situation smacked of collusion between state institutions and the mining company.

He expressed concern about the inability of the government and Parliament to hold the company accountable for its actions.