The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, and the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah, are in talks to resolve the standoff over the mining of bauxite in Nyinahin in the Ashanti Region.
The two have taken entrenched positions on the matter, which has Engineers and Planners (E&P), the company belonging to Mr Ibrahim Mahama, a brother of former President John Dramani Mahama, at the centre.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Abraham Otabil, told the Daily Graphic on Tuesday that the standoff could be traced to “miscommunication”.
As of press time on Tuesday, heavy-duty equipment belonging to E&P had not been released after it was seized on the orders of Mr Osei-Mensah last Monday.
Engineers and Planners had been sub-contracted by the concessionaire, Exton Cubic, to prospect for bauxite.
Even though Mr Amewu had explained that a lease had been granted for the prospecting, Mr Osei-Mensah said there was no way he would allow the prospecting to go on until he had seen documents on the concession.
Mr Otabil said the ministry did not have any difficulty at all in releasing the documents on the concession to the regional minister.
He said if Mr Osei-Mensah had made the request earlier, the documents would have been given to him to avoid the current controversy.
Mr Osei-Mensah said he had engaged Mr Amewu in a conversation over the matter but there had not been any exchange of documentation.
He said he would respond appropriately if he obtained the necessary documents concerning the exploration of bauxite in the Ashanti Region.
He said he had told Mr Amewu to furnish his office with the contract document of Exton Cubic and, by extension, E&P to prospect for bauxite by the close of work on Tuesday or he would order for the seized equipment currently in Nyinahin to be sent to the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) in Kumasi.
As of the time of filing this story, the regional minister’s office was yet to receive any such document.
Mr Osei-Mensah led a team from the RCC to the Nyinahin mining site yesterday where five containers suspected to have been converted into offices by E&P were found.
For his part, Mr Amewu told newsmen that lack of communication was to blame for the seizure of the equipment, adding that the owner of Exton Cubic had a legitimate mining lease and exploration permit to engage in his legitimate business
He said he would make the appropriate documents available to Mr Osei-Mensah to address the issue.
The regional minister was also at the Manhyia Palace, but it was unclear whether the meeting with the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, was in connection with the raging controversy.
As of the time of filing this story, the minister was still locked up in the meeting at Manhyia, while his aides were tight-lipped on reasons for the meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, the Chief of Nyinahin in the Atwima Mponua District, Nana Amanpene II, had descended on the district assembly for mobilising the youth of the area, on the alleged instruction of the regional minister, to seize E&P’s equipment.
The chief said Exton Cubic had the full blessing of the traditional authority and, therefore, anyone who acted on its behalf should not be harassed.
The legal team of E&P had threatened to take legal action against the regional minister for the seizure of the equipment.
The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, on December 29, 2016, granted Exton Cubic Group Limited mining lease to mine bauxite in different concessions for 21 years.
The company then outsourced the prospecting of the site to E&P, but the regional minister allegedly prevented the company’s equipment from entering the area.
Though the company had permission from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission, Mr Osei-Mensah said on radio he was unaware of that.
He insisted that he did not work with verbal communication and would only rescind his decision if he was served with contract documents.