Exton Cubic Group Limited, the company at the centre of the brouhaha over the prospecting for bauxite in Nyinahin in the Atwima Mponua District in the Ashanti Region, has stated that its operations in the area are within the confines of the law.
The company has, therefore, described the seizure of its vehicles and equipment in Nyinahin as an illegality.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra on Thursday, the Communications Officer of the company, Mr Samuel Gyamfi, discounted claims that its equipment was impounded at a mining site.
“The allegations that Exton Cubic made an attempt to go and mine and that is what has caused the brouhaha are totally false. What happened was that on August 16, 2017, we received an email from the Minerals Commission informing us that they will be visiting our site at Nyinahin to inspect our prospecting activities and have discussions with us at the site.
“The vehicles and equipment were being conveyed there to create access routes for the Minerals Commission officials and our trucks. It is not an illegal thing to do because if you are doing prospecting, you are allowed to dig, excavate and transport the samples and these require vehicles for the preparatory activities. This was what we were about to do.
“I would like to put on record that the vehicles and equipment were impounded in the town and not in the forest, as is being purported. Even more, there was no single excavator or any mining machine among the equipment that was being transported. What we went to do was preparatory work,” he stressed.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of irate youth of Nyinahin, dressed in red, took to the streets of the town to register their displeasure against the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, and the Forestry Commission for allowing Exton Cubic to prospect for bauxite in the area.
The demonstrators backed the decision by the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah, to confiscate the mining equipment belonging to Exton Cubic, said to be owned by Mr Ibrahim Mahama, a younger brother of former President John Dramani Mahama.
The protesters demanded the abrogation of the lease contract which the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources had granted to Exton Cubic on December 29, 2016, giving it authorisation to mine for bauxite in different concessions in the vicinity of the town for periods between18 to 21 years.
According to them, the people of Nyinahin ought to have been given the first prerogative of prospecting for the mineral as a way of giving jobs to the youth of the area.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has waded into Exton Cubic Group’s environmental permit status under its mining lease, saying the group has not obtained the required EPA permit under its mining lease.
According to the EPA, any attempt by the group to undertake any mining activity was illegal.
“The bottom line is that Exton Cubic has not obtained the required EPA permit under its mining lease and, therefore, any attempt to enter the area for any mining activity is illegal,” a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of the EPA, Mrs Angelina Mensah, and issued in Accra.
It said on March 29, 2016, the group applied for three environmental permits from the EPA to undertake prospecting of bauxite on its Mpraeso, Kiriyaso and Kyekyewere concessions in the Ashanti Region, covering a total of 346.08 square kilometres.
The EPA, the statement said, granted the permits on June 7, 2016, saying the company, among other conditions, was to notify the EPA as soon as prospecting activities commenced.
Addressing the press conference, Mr Gyamfi said the company had followed due diligence in all processes with the appropriate state agencies, ranging from the Minerals Commission, the EPA, the Forestry Commission and the Lands Commission.
He said the company was mindful of the requirements of the law and would not in any way go contrary to the requirements, stressing: “We want to ensure that before we attempt to mine, we would have gone through all the necessary legal processes.”
He described the claim by the EPA that the company had not acquired the required EPA permit under the mining lease as unfortunate, given the fact that the regulatory body had issued the required permit to prospect for bauxite to the company.
“The press release issued by the EPA is flawed because they have not given us any correspondence that the environmental permit they granted us on June 7, 2016 was illegal.
“The facts are that we are yet to get an environmental permit for mining, which we applied for on March 30, 2017, but have not heard from the EPA on that one.
“We submitted the required documents but because we did not hear from them, we followed up on June 18, 2017 for the EPA to expedite action on the environmental permit for mining which has not been issued yet, so we are not mining,” he said.
Mr Gyamfi further stated that the company contacted the Minerals Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources for the grant of a mining lease for a period of 30 years, following advanced prospecting it had done ahead of the two-year period.
He said the commission assessed the company’s documents and made a recommendation to the ministry, after which a mining lease was issued to the company on December 29, 2016.
“The mining lease at the Nyinahin bauxite concession was duly registered at the Lands Commission on January 9, 2017 and this can be verified by anyone who so wishes,” he stressed.