Cassius and Shaanxi Mining Company both have gold mining concessions in Ghana’s Upper East Region where they operate opposite each other. However, in 2017 Cassius discovered that Shaanxi’s ventilation shafts had trespassed its mining concessions, resulting in approximately $142 million worth of gold being removed by the Chinese firm every year.
Shaanxi is also accused of deliberately using explosions containing chlorine to kill unlicensed miners in Gban, a village in northern Ghana. As a result of economic hardship, these unlicensed miners are believed to have invaded some of Shaanxi’s tunnels and scraped gold from the walls.
Upset by this development, Shaanxi blasted explosions filled with chlorine in their mines, subsequently leading to the slow death of the unlicensed miners who inhaled the poison. In 2019 Shaanxi was fined $40 000 after it was found culpable for the explosion that claimed 16 lives near its concession.
The Australian mining company’s legal tussle dates back to 2018 when it sued Shaanxi for stealing significant amounts of gold from its concessions. The judge presiding over the case, Justice Jacob Boon, subsequently recused himself after secret meetings between him and Shaanxi officials came to the fore.
Justice Asmah Akwasi Asiedu, subsequently took over the case, but the court is yet to give a ruling, four years on.
Now Cassius is preparing to sue Ghana’s government at the London Court of International Arbitration, claiming the Ghanaian government had knowledge of Shaanxi’s trespassing and did nothing to stop it; attempted to redraw boundaries in favour of Shaanxi; and failed to act on allegations of corruption at senior levels of the government.
Ghana’s Lands Minister, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, has been negotiating with Cassius for an amicable solution to its impasse with Shaanxi, following the company’s threat to sue Ghana. On the sidelines of the recent Africa Down Under Conference on mining and exploration, Jinapor held consultations with the Chief Executive Officer of Cassius Mining Company, James Arkoudis.
“The purpose of the meeting was to engage officials on the matters contained in the widely circulated media reports without prejudice basis,” said a joint statement signed by the Chief Executive of Ghana’s Minerals Commission, Martin K. Ayisi, and James Arkoudis. According to the statement, the minister is also “scheduled to engage officials of Shaanxi and other related parties in the coming days on this matter”.
Jinapor is hopeful that these consultations will lead to a fair and transparent resolution of the issue. “When all is said and done, the most important thing is to go through it in a manner which is fair, just, transparent and professional,” he told the press after consultations in Australia. “I made it abundantly clear to Cassius that we are not going to swallow their rendition or point of view hook, line and sinker; neither are we going to swallow the rendition or viewpoint of Shaanxi hook, line and sinker.”
Yao Graham, Coordinator for Third World Network-Africa, a Pan-African research and advocacy organisation, says, a “complete disregard of constitutional guarantees” resulted in the rift between the two firms.
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