Mining leases without ratification is due to delays at ministry - Aubynn

BY: Graphic.com.gh

A former Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission and founder of the African Institute for Extractive Industries think tank, Dr Toni Aubynn says many major mining companies in Ghana have not had their mining leases ratified by Parliament because of the enormous work at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

According to him, the mining companies cannot be blamed for the anomaly.

Rather, he said it was as a result of the chunk of work at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, which has made it impossible for the ministry to complete its part of the process.

Commenting on the action taken by two Members of Parliament, Alhassan Sayibu Suhuyini for Tamale North and Ernest Henry Norgbey for Ashaiman, who have sued 35 mining companies, the Attorney-General and the Minerals Commission for violating Ghana’s Constitution by operating without Parliamentary ratification of their leases, Dr Aubynn argued that the approvals for the mining companies have delayed because there is the general inertia by the government departments that are to work on the approvals.

“If you look at the retinue of institutions that regulate it, you would be surprised, so they would definitely be delays,” he said in a radio interview with Accra based Joy FM.

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In a suit filed at the Supreme Court on December 24, 2018, the plaintiffs [Suhuyini and Norgbey] argue that the companies which include Newmont Ghana Limited and Anglogold Ashanti have violated Article 268 of the 1992 Constitution by carrying out mining operations at a time when Parliament had not ratified their mining leases in accordance with Article 268 of the Constitution.

They further argue that unless Parliament ratifies or gives approval to a mining agreement, the holder of the mining agreement cannot carry on any mining activity; hence the 35 mining companies acted illegally.

The two legislators are therefore praying the court to restrain the mining companies from carrying on with their operations until the necessary ratification is done.

They also want the Court to order the mining companies to refund all monies or financial benefits that have accrued to them as a result of illegally mining Ghana’s natural resources.

Admitting that some mining firms are operating in Ghana without ratification of their mining leases by Parliament, Dr Toni Aubynn told the radio station, “…you know the mining companies cannot themselves ratify, their leases, they will have to go through the process and in all you have to print every document close to about 200 copies or so.”

“Our Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is probably one of the busy ministries that we have, because the minister looks at land, looks at forestry, looks at mining, all three very busy.”

“Let’s not forget, once ratification is not only for large mining companies, the law says every mineral, so every lease that you have. If it is sand winning, you need to seek ratification according to what the constitution says.”

“If it is small scale mining, you need to get ratification, so you can be sure that if Parliament were to spend time on ratification of these documents, I’m sure they wouldn’t have time for any other business.

Dr Aubynn said the law was quite clear that you need to have the ratification before you can commence work, but he added, “whether it is realistic is another thing, the law can take the license from you because you have broken it, but it is up to the courts to decide.”

”But seriously, once you’ve broken the law, you may have some level of mitigation by the fact that, you have applied and you’ve done all the things, and the lawyers, the judges, are human beings, …if the guy has done this, fulfilled his part of the ratification requirement, the ministry hasn’t done its part, maybe rather than take the whole license from him, will ask him to stop and continue with the ratification,” Dr Aubynn said.