The Ghana Chamber of Mines has asked the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy — particularly its chairman, Dr. Kwabena Donkor — to refrain from accusing Newmont Ghana of engaging in illegal mining activities at its Akyem concession.
The Chamber — which is the umbrella-body of all the large-scale mining companies in Ghana, says it is disturbed by the persistent labelling of Newmont Ghana as a “large-scale galamsey operator” because the company’s mining lease agreement with government on the Akyem project has not been presented to Parliament for ratification.
The Chief Executive of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Sulemanu Koney, explained to the B&FT that Newmont Ghana has acquired mining licence and fulfilled all the necessary regulatory requirements needed to operate as a legitimate mining firm, which makes it difficult to comprehend why the company would be targetted on the basis that its lease agreement has not been ratified by Parliament.
He has thus called on the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy to direct its frustrations for the flaws in meeting a constitutional requirement to the appropriate bodies.
“Our concern is that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy ostensibly led by the chairman has been going on about the fact that some particular mining companies are engaged in large-scale galamsey; and we take a very strong exception to the statement because as far as we are concerned the mining company has satisfied all requirements of the state prior to commencing operations.
“What is required of a mining company to start operations — whether mining lease, environmental permit, operating permit, they have secured all these permits.
“Yes, the leases of the company have not been presented to Parliament. He may have a point in the fact that they have not been presented to parliament, but that doesn’t make the operations of the company illegal or a galamsey.
“If you look at the regulations, all the requirements have been met by the company. No legitimate mine operates in this country without an operating permit, and that is given by the Inspectorate Division of the Minerals Commission — and that would not be given without an environmental permit.
“As far as we are concerned, no large-scale member of the Chamber of Mines is actually involved in illegal mining as Dr. Kwabena Donkor would want the world to know.
“The fact of the matter, though, is that the constitution requires mining leases to be ratified by Parliament. It is incumbent on the Executive arm of government to present it to parliament for ratification. I don’t think the chairman wants the company to present the lease agreement to parliament for ratification. We don’t have the right to do so by the Constitution. It is more within the bosom of government — i.e. the Executive,” he said.
Newmont Ghana’s Akyem Mine is located in the New Abirem district of the Eastern Region, which is approximately 180 kilometres northwest of Accra, the national capital.
In late 2013, the Akyem Mine successfully achieved commercial production; safely, on-budget, and on-schedule.
The Akyem reserves as of December 2013 stood at 7.2 million ounces.
However, Dr. Kwabena Donkor has for almost two years embarked on a crusade of accusation against Newmont Ghana for engaging in what he calls “large-scale galamsey” operations in the Akyem concession.
Dr. Kwabena Donkor, who has been courting civil society organisations’ support on the crusade, contends the accusations stem from the fact that Newmont’s lease agreement with government has not been ratified by the 275-member legislature.
Nonetheless, Mr. Koney has asked the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy to utilise the legislative processes to right what he sees as wrong, as the company with the assistance of the chamber has consistently pushed for the agreement to be ratified without success.
He explained: “There are structures, and we are generally surprised that Parliament would not want to take advantage of those structures and rather go out to give the impression that the companies are irresponsible and are not doing what is right — when in actual fact the challenge is within the bosom of government.
“Parliament should exploit the channels of communication and engagement with the Executive to ensure that this happens. On the part of the chamber, what we have done is written to the Executive several times to remind it that the agreement must go to parliament. And that is as far as we can go.
“The companies do have a copy of the agreements, but we can’t just send that to parliament. It is the responsibility of government to do so.”