Government sacks Mahama from Nyinahin; bauxite deal cancelled
The much-talked-about multi-billion cedi bauxite concession granted to Ibrahim Mahama’s company at the tail end of his brother, John Dramani Mahama’s presidency, has been revoked by the current government.
John Peter Amewu, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, who made the announcement at a news conference in Accra yesterday, said Exton Cubic Group Limited could not meet all the legal requirements to prospect for bauxite at Nyinahini in the Tano Offin Forest Reserve; and therefore the lease cannot hold, cancelling the earlier directive for the company to move to the Nyinahin forest for the mining of bauxite.
The minister said the government was acting in accordance with Section 87 of Act 703 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 to cancel the concession granted Mr Ibrahim Mahama.
“The failure to obtain an Environmental Permit, Operational Permit, as well as the various statutory infractions, leading to the purported grant of the three Mining Leases to the company, render the purported leases invalid and of no effect,” he stated.
According to Mr. Amewu, who has earlier been accused of allowing Ibrahim’s company into the Nyinahin Forest Reserve in the Atwima Mponua District of the Ashanti Region to start exploratory activities, “The company was supposed to provide an Exploration Operating Permit for the year 2017, an Exploration Operating Plan to the Minerals Commission. None of the above was fulfilled.”
“The absence of publication in the Gazette of a notice of the pendency of the company’s applications and service of the notice on the various entities specified in the law is contrary to both Section 13(2) of Act 703 and Regulation 177 of L.I 2176,” he noted.
The minister said that the three mining leases included Kyekyewere (56.64 sq.km), Mpasaso (22.46 sq.km) and Kyirayaso (32.68 sq.km), adding that his attention was drawn to an attempt by the company to enter the concession on August 20 and therefore decided to investigate that information.
He said it was after he had investigated the claims of Exton Cubic Group Limited that he came to the conclusion that the company had not complied with the mandatory laid-down procedures required to enter the concession.
Adding his voice at the press conference, Prof. Frimpong Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, stated, “Every government wants to promote indigenous Ghanaian businesses.”
A number of infractions were noted by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources with regards to Exton Cubic’s operations; and Prof. Frimpong-Boateng maintained that “The laws are laws. This is not a political thing. This government works with the law and infractions are infractions.
“Nobody can say that this is a political witch-hunt. The minister mentioned a lot of infractions… so you can go through and you will know that we are not after any individuals. I will be the last person, and I am sure the president will be the last person to hunt Ghanaian business people.”
Exton Cubic Group Limited was controversially granted a long lease concession by the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration on December 29, 2016 when the NDC had lost the December 7 general elections miserably and was on its way out of office.
The company moved heavy-duty machines into the forest near Nyinahin recently with intent to start exploratory activities but was stopped by both the district and regional authorities.
In the ensuing tussle between the youth of Nyinahin on one side and the private firm on the other over whether Ibrahim had the right to enter the Nyinahin Forest Reserve, Peter Abum Sarkodie, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), issued a statement saying that the company had not obtained the required permit to enable it to mine bauxite in the area.
“The attention of the EPA has been drawn to a situation that has arisen regarding an attempt by Exton Cubic Group Limited to enter the Nyinahin bauxite deposit area for the purpose of undertaking mining activities. As a result of the public interest in the matter, the EPA would like to clarify the position of Exton Cubic Group Limited’s Environmental Permit status under its mining lease (that is a necessary condition for any mining activity).
“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.”
According to the EPA, the company, which is owned by former President John Dramani Mahama’s younger brother Ibrahim, with his wife Oona Maxwell, his brother Michael Mahama, as well as a certain Kweku Pobee as directors, would be acting illegally if it went ahead with its activities without recourse to the environmental regulator.
The controversial bauxite mining concession granted to Exton Cubic appeared to have pitched two ministers in the Akufo-Addo-led administration against each other.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei-Mensah, expressed regret that the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Mr. Amewu, was encouraging Ibrahim to move his equipment to the Nyinahin bauxite site for mining when there is a ban on mining in the region.
Ibrahim Mahama moved his Engineers and Planners (E&P) heavy-duty equipment to the site on behalf of Exton Cubic Group Limited but were prevented by the residents and the DCE of the area.
The vehicles were later confiscated at Nyinahin and some of the company’s officers allegedly detained.
Later, Exton Cubic Group accused Mr. Osei-Mensah and the District Chief Executive of the Atwima Mponua, Williams Darko, of unlawfully impounding E&P’s vehicles and detaining its officers.
In the heat of the tug of war, Mr. Amewu had confirmed that his ministry granted Exton Cubic Group Limited an entry permit into the Nyinahin bauxite concession in the Tano Offin Forest Reserve to prospect for bauxite.
“This project commenced somewhere in 2013. They began the due diligence processes through which they were granted the prospective lease in 2015. They have the entry permit from the Forestry Commission and the necessary EIA was done during the exploration period,” he had said.
Exton Cubic’s Fears
Exton Cubic, however, expressed worry that the challenges faced by its exploration at the Nyinahin bauxite concession might be a witch-hunt against it.
The company said the recent developments concerning the legality of operations in the Nyinahin bauxite concession gave it a reason to be concerned.
Vehicles belonging to Exton Cubic’s sub-contractor, Ibrahim Mahama’s Engineers and Planners (E&P) were impounded in the Nyinahin township on the orders of the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei Mensah, following suspicions that the mining company was operating illegally.