Exton Cubic saga exposes loopholes in mineral rights allocation
The current impasse between the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on one hand, and mining company, Exton Cubic Group Limited on the other hand, has exposed the flaws in the allocation of mineral rights in the country, Forest Watch Ghana, has said.
Whereas the state institutions claim the company has not been permitted to mine in the Nyinahini bauxite concession in the Ashanti Region, the company also says it was given the permit to do so.
The EPA for instance, said in a statement that:“The bottom line is that Exton Cubic Group Limited has not obtained the required EPA permit under its mining lease and, therefore, any attempt to enter the area for mining activity is illegal.”
But Sammy Gyamfi, Communications Director for the company, told the media that “we have all our permits. Engineers and Planning have not committed any offence, Exton Cubic has not committed any offence, but we have been told by the minister that he is not ready to meet with us and that is why it has become and legal issue, and we trust that our lawyers will deal with that”.
Commenting on this back and forth, a statement signed by Samuel Mawutor, Coordinator of Forest Watch Ghana, said : “The current controversy surrounding Exton Cubic Group Limited’s mineral license in the Tano Offin Forest Reserve is a big embarrassment to government and completely exposes the loopholes in the mineral rights allocation. This needless confusion does not bode well with natural resources governance and sustainable development of the country.
“The transaction around the granting of lease and entry permit to Exton Cubic raises too many questions which require answers from the government. We recall that on 10th June 2016, the Forestry Commission granted Exton Cubic Group an entry permit to carry out prospecting activities in the Tano Offin Forest Reserve against the advice of senior officials.
This happened at a time when the President of the Republic of Ghana was, and still is, the co-chair of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with responsibilities to uphold efforts to protect biodiversity. On this basis on 1st August, 2016, Forest Watch Ghana (a civil society coalition of 35-member organisations and several other NGOs in the natural resource sector) petitioned the then President, John Mahama, to intervene in the issuance of prospecting license to Exton Cubic due to environmental concerns; more than 60% of this forest reserve is a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA), which means that the area is protected for its unique ecology and diversity of species of flora and fauna. There was however, no response to our petition.
“Although the entry permit issued by the FC was to expire on 23rd December, 2016, information gathered by FWG indicated that Exton Cubic Group pulled out of the Tano Offin Forest Reserve and went into Fure River Forest Reserve in Western Region, sending the signal that our forest reserves are under threat from people with political connections in high places. (Records available show that Michael Mahama, a close relative of the then President Mahama is a 50% shareholder of Exton Cubic Group.)
“What due diligence was done between 23rd and 29th December, 2016 to warrant the issuance of full scale mining permit on 29th December, 2016? FWG is, therefore, compelled to question the rationale and political appropriateness of an outgoing Minister of Lands and Natural Resources to issue a mining lease on 29th December, 2016, after his party had lost elections.
We, as well, seek to know how a mining lease and mining right can be granted when no Environmental Impact Assessment Report and Environmental Management Plan has been made publicly available for comments, and more so, when the communities likely to be affected by the activities had not been engaged.”