Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Samuel Abu Jinapor
An Australian company, Cassius Mining Limited, is set to sue Ghana for $395m at the the London Court of International Arbitration over what it says was the country’s role in helping another mining company steal $142m worth of gold from its concession.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald report, both Cassius Mining Limited and a Chinese state-linked mine run by the Shaanxi Mining Company stood opposite each other in Talensi where they had purchased parcels of land for mining in 2008 and 2014.
In comparison to the much smaller Shaanxi mining permit area, which consists of two small leases of less than 0.25km², the Cassius mining permission area is around 13.79km².
However, Cassius observed that the Chinese mining company was operating beyond what it had been permitted to do in 2017.
The Australian company later confirmed that the Shaanxi Mining Company was mining from its concessions and was concealing it.
“In 2017, Cassius noticed deep Chinese ventilation shafts had begun popping up closer and closer to the Australian mining concession. The size of Shaanxi’s above-ground operation seemed far larger than the plot, about the size of three football fields, it had been granted to explore. By 2018, the mine was employing 250 workers, had set up its own medical facilities and had been feted by China’s then-ambassador to Ghana Sun Baohong.
“Next door, Cassius – run by Sydney-based former Chameleon Mining directors Anthony Karam and James Arkoudis – was struggling. It had a much larger plot – 30 times the size of Shaanxi – but only 21 workers.
“Cassius suspected Shaanxi’s shafts ran as deep as 500 metres underground and had horizontal tunnels running into the Australian concession. A subterranean laser probe confirmed that Shaanxi’s tunnels were far more extensive than they had publicly revealed,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“The first thing that we noticed was a fair bit of hostility from the Chinese miners … they did not want us to see things,” Andrew Head, the Australian mining manager added.
Cassius confirms that the Ghana Minerals Commission ordered Shaanxi to allow them to inspect their operation where a tunnel extending to the latter’s concession was discovered.
According to a report sighted by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, there was more than meets the eye when a report was commissioned into the matter.
“It went for hundreds of metres. It was a drive for underground vehicles,” Andrew Head indicated, referring to a long underground tunnel that went into the Australian concession.
“We could see that there were a huge amount of ports through all of the ceilings and in these ports, you can see where the gold had been removed.”
“It was not the only tunnel. A consultant’s report commissioned by Cassius and seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age found there was “a strong probability” that Shaanxi was trespassing on five levels of the Cassius concession, right along its eastern and northern borders,”
“Clear evidence of trespass has been gathered which indicates that Shaanxi are mining and exploring into Cassius’s licence, to the north and east,” the report quoted by The Syndey Morning Herald found. “Given the known geology and assumed grades of veins in the area, the amount of gold removed is probably significant,” it noted.
According to Andrew Head, Shaanxi had stolen a lot of gold amounting to “tens of millions of dollars”.
The Australian company consequently took the matter to court on the basis of its findings. However, while the case was been heard, officials of Shaanxi were caught meeting the judge, Justice Jacob Boon, in his home.
Following this, one of the authors of story, Edward Adeti, was offered a bribe of motorbike and an arrangement to pay him money if he will sweep the story under the carpet.
An aide to former Upper East Regional Minister, Rockson Bukari was said to be amongst persons who visited the author to bribe him.
“Accompanying the Shaanxi officials to the meeting with Adeti was an aide to Rockson Bukari, the Minister of State at the Office of the Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. After his aide was caught on tape, Bukari was forced to resign. There is no suggestion that Bukari or Akufo-Addo were involved in the incident. Justice Boon recused himself from the case. Four years after Cassius brought action against Shaanxi, the case remains before a local court,” The Sydney Morning Herald wrote.
Cassius has decided to escalate matters by taking the issue to the international court to seek redress over delays in settling the matter in the country.
Ahead of that as well, Shaanxi has been granted a much bigger concession to operate whereas Cassius struggles to renew it licence to operate.
The Australian company wants to sue for both the stolen gold saga and the Gban incident, a village in the Northern part of the country where Shaanxi is accused of using explosions which create a toxic poison to kill small-scale miners who inhaled it in 2019.
“In September, Shaanxi rebranded as Earl International Group and was granted a large-scale mining license by the Ghanaian Minerals Commission of 16 square kilometres – 50 times its original size.
“Earl International claims that when full-scale production kicks off at the site, the daily average throughout will be in excess of 2000 tonnes per day.
“While Earl International has had its territory expanded, Australian miner Cassius has been unable to renew its license to begin mining in the tunnels from which Shaanxi has been accused of stealing. [Andrew] Head has since left Cassius. The company has declined to comment due to pending legal action.
“In April, Cassius said it would commence proceedings through the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law at the London Court of International Arbitration. Cassius claims the Ghanaian government had knowledge of Shaanxi’s trespassing and theft from Cassius and did nothing about it; attempted to redraw boundaries in favour of the Chinese miner and failed to act on allegations of demonstrated corruption at senior levels of the government. It is suing the Ghanaian government for $395 million in losses from the Gban project,” The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Both Shaanxi and the government deny any wrongdoing however Lands and Natural Resources Minister Samuel Jinapor, and head of the Minerals Commission, Martin Kwaku Ayisi will be in Australia on Thursday where they are expected to speak at Africa Down Under conference in Perth.
Directors of Cassius are also expected to confront them on the matter.