Lawyers for Ibrahim Mahama, owner of Exton Cubic Group Limited-, a mining company exploring bauxite at Nyinahin in the Ashanti Region – have filed an application for judicial review at an Accra High Court over the revocation of his mining licences by the Lands and Natural Resources Minister.
Ibrahim is challenging the revocation of the mining lease granted by his brother’s (former President Mahama’s) government during the dying days of his National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration in 2016.
The much-talked-about multi-billion cedi bauxite concession granted to Mr Ibrahim Mahama’s company was revoked in September after the Natural Resources Minister, John Peter Amewu, had contended that the contract to Exton Cubic was invalid.
According to the minister, Exton Cubic Group Limited could not meet all the legal requirements to prospect for bauxite at Nyinahin in the Tano-Offin Forest Reserve; and therefore the lease could not hold, cancelling the earlier directive for the company to move to the Nyinahin forest for the mining of bauxite.
The issue of bauxite mining in Ghana took a dramatic turn when the minister earlier approved of the exploration and urged his colleague minister in the Ashanti Region to release the equipment owned by Exton Cubic, which had been seized by Simon Osei-Mensah, the regional minister.
But Mr Peter Amewu, following a meeting with the Attorney General, made the U-turn and revoked the mining licence granted Exton Cubic.
According to Mr. Amewu, “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 officials of the company, after the revocation of the licence, indicated that they might go to court to challenge the cancellation of three mining leases for what they described as “gross abuse of executive power.”
According to them, they would do everything possible within the law to protect the legal interests of the company in rich bauxite deposits at Kyekyewere, Mpasaso and Kyirayaso in the Ashanti Region.
Two months after the revocation, the company has followed through with its threat by filing the application for judicial review at the high court, hoping to reverse the decision of the government.
But state attorneys are fighting to ensure that the judicial review is not granted on the basis that Exton Cubic’s case does not satisfy the criteria for a judicial review.
According to the Attorney General, the respondent (Exton Cubic) has no capacity to sue and be sued.
“That I respectfully submit that the instant application violates Article 88(5) of the 1992 Constitution, and to this extent, same is incompetent.
“That I further submit that in so far as the applicant relies on the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) and asserts the acquisition of a mineral right, the institution of the instant action violates the express mandatory provisions in Section 27 of Act 703.
“That I also submit that the instant application does not satisfy the essential criteria for a judicial review application and same ought to be dismissed as wholly unmeritorious,” the affidavit stated.
In the affidavit filed in opposition, the Attorney General argues that “There was no publication of notice of the pendency of the application for the prospecting licence in the Gazette as required by Section 13(2) and (3) of Act 703 and Regulation 177 of Minerals and Mining Regulations, 2012 (L. I. 2176).”
They also maintained that “Failure by applicant to obtain the relevant environmental permits before the purported grants of mining leases in respect of the areas constituting about 79% of the nation’s known bauxite resources, among other statutory violations, is very serious, having regard to the activity applicant sought to engage in – mining.”
The Attorney General’s Department is therefore praying the court to dismiss Ibrahim Mahama’s application since the complex question of fact raised for determination of the application clearly shows that the applicant’s reliefs cannot be determined through a judicial review motion.
“Pursuant to an application made in April, 2015, the applicant was on 24th December, 2015 initially issued with prospecting licences under Section 34 of Act 703 for a term of two (2) years in respect of the following areas: Kyekyewere – 56.64 sq.km; Mpasaso – 22.46 sq.km and Kyirayaso – 32.68 sq.km.
“There was no publication of notice of the pendency of the application for the prospecting licence in the Gazette as required by Section 13(2) and (3) of Act 703 and Regulation 177 of Minerals and Mining Regulations, 2012 (L. I. 2176).”
The case would be heard by the court this morning with the state being represented by Godfred Yeboah Dame, Deputy Attorney General.
Exton Cubic Group Limited was controversially granted a long lease concession by the Mahama-led NDC administration on December 29, 2016 when the NDC 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 hand and the private firm on the other over whether Ibrahim had the right to enter the Nyinahin Forest Reserve, Peter 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.
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 on the concession gave it a reason to be concerned.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak