Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has dismissed Exton Cubic Group Limited’s claim that it has environmental permit to mine bauxite in a forest reserve at Nyinahin in the Ashanti Region.
According to the EPA, the company, which is owned by former President John Dramani Mahama’s younger brother, Ibrahim Mahama - with his wife Oona Maxwell, his brother Michael Mahama, as well as a certain Kweku Pobee as directors - will be acting illegally if it goes ahead with its activities without recourse to the environmental overseer.
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 that administration 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 at Nyinahin at the beginning of the week with intent to start exploratory activities but was stopped by both the district and the regional authorities.
Peter Abum Sarkodie, Executive Director of the EPA, issued a statement yesterday, saying that the company had not obtained the required permit to enable them 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,” the statement indicated, adding, “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, Ibrahim’s company applied for three separate Environmental Permits from the EPA to undertake prospecting of bauxite on its Mprasaso, Kiriyaso and Kyekyewere concessions in the Ashanti Region covering a total of 346.08 sq km on 29th March, 2016 and the EPA granted the Environmental Permits to Exton Cubic Group Limited on 7th June, 2016.
“The company, among other conditions, was to notify the EPA as soon as prospecting activities commenced and also to submit within three months from the date of issuance of the Environmental Permits a liability estimate of environmental degradation to enable the posting of the Reclamation Bond in line with Regulation 23 of the Environmental Assessment Regulation 1999 (LI 1652).
Exton Cubic Group Limited unfortunately reneged on all these conditions. The prospecting permits are therefore no longer valid,” EPA stressed.
The statement said that Exton Cubic subsequently acquired a Mining Lease on 29th December, 2016 from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, adding, “This mining lease requires a new EPA permit which has not been granted by the EPA.”
The EPA said its discussions with Exton Cubic Group Limited and its consultants indicated that there were some documents the company was required to produce in order to support their application for an EPA permit under the Mining Lease.
Exton Cubic Group Limited was required to submit to EPA a “No objection” letter from cabinet, completion and submission of statutory environmental assessment form (EA2); and notification from the EPA to the company to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment, which would have led to a broader public consultation and “public hearing” within the relevant catchment communities in line with Regulation 17 of the Environmental Assessment Regulations (LI 1652).
“Failure of the company to comply with the above stated conditions as at the time of the issuance of this press release has rendered all environmental permits null and void,” the statement said, adding “Again, the EPA wishes to state that any mining activity to be conducted by the Exton Cubic Group Limited within the concession areas, of which Environmental Permit is sought is not consistent with the Environmental Assessment Procedures of the EPA, LI1652 and is therefore illegal.”
The controversial bauxite mining concession granted to Exton Cubic Group Limited appeared to have pitched two ministers in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration against each other.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei-Mensah, expressed regret that the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, John Peter 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.
Mr Ibrahim Mahama moved his Engineers and Planners (E&P) heavy-duty equipment to the site on behalf of Exton Cubic Group Limited at the beginning of the week, but was prevented by the residents and the DCE of the area.
The equipment were later confiscated at Nyinahin and some of the company’s officers allegedly detained.
Later, Exton Cubic accused Mr. Osei-Mensah and the District Chief Executive (DCE) of Atwima Mponua, Williams Darko, of unlawfully impounding E&P’s vehicles and detaining its officers.
The Ashanti Regional Minister confirmed to the media that he had indeed given the directive after the DCE had informed him of the activity on the concession.
“They asked whether I knew anything about it and I told them I had no knowledge about it and that they should impound the vehicles until we get authorization from the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources; and then I called the police to impound the vehicles.
Mr Amewu has confirmed that his outfit granted Exton Cubic Group Limited 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 EPA was done during the exploration period,” he claimed.