In 2008, Charles Taleog Ndanbon, a well-known small-scale miner in the Upper East Region and financier of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), wooed Shaanxi Mining Company Limited from China to Talensi, a gold-rich district in northern Ghana.
He introduced the foreign company to the district as a business partner whose role was to render technical support services to his local gold-mining enterprise, Yenyeya Mining Group.
The Chinese company was also contracted to offer the same services to Pubortaaba Mining Group, owned by Alhaji Awudu Nab.
After a decade of mutual commitment among the three parties, a conflict cropped up when the Chinese company suddenly decided to go solo into a large-scale gold mining business in 2017. The foreign partner had acquired 16.02 square kilometres of land and had adopted a new name―Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited― for the new business.
Ndanbon and Nab contested that move because their concessions were part of the 16.02 square kilometres the foreign company had acquired for the large-scale mining operations.
When the Chinese company applied to the Minerals Commission for licence to begin its large-scale mining project, Ndanbon and Nab raised a joint objection. They argued that their licences as small-scale miners were still valid and, for that reason, the commission should not grant the Chinese another licence to operate on their concessions.
The objection saw the commission shelve the licence application filed by Earl International.
Later, the parties involved in the disagreement reached an agreement on 15th July, 2017.
It is stated in the second paragraph of an agreement letter addressed to the Talensi District Assembly and dated 20th July 2017 that “there shall be no deliberate hostile takeover or fizzling out of their (Yenyeya’s and Pubortaaba’s) businesses and that the current relationship shall endure”.
In 2019, the licence was issued. Thereafter, Ndanbon and a son to Nab, Mohammed Awudu Pard who now runs his father’s concession, were invited by the Chinese to a meeting.
In the meeting, the Chinese officially announced that they were ending their partnership with Yenyeya and Pubortaaba and would offer each of them a USD75,000 payoff.
Incensed by what they described as a breach of agreement, Yenyeya and Pubortaaba revived their objection against the licence granted to the Earl International Group.
They lodged a petition with the Minerals Commission. In response, the commission asked the parties to have further engagement among themselves.
Regional Minister initiates unsolicited negotiation
Soon after that development, the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, invited the three parties to a meeting.
During the meeting, the owners of Yenyeya and Pubortaaba said they were displeased because the Chinese company had breached the agreement they had. They told the regional minister they would consider USD300,000 each if the Chinese were still bent on taking over their concessions.
Days later, the regional minister told the two local groups that the Chinese had agreed to pay them USD200,000 each.
They did not object to the amount, but requested to meet with the Earl International Group’s CEO, Wei Xing, “to remind him of the agreement” the parties signed in 2017.
The regional minister declined to arrange that meeting. Instead, he forwarded another agreement the Chinese company had proposed. The proposed agreement, undated, maintains the USD200,000 payoffs and adds that the Chinese will pay a 0.5% royalty every 6 months to the two local mining groups.
Ndanbon and Pard did not raise any objections. But while they were waiting for their money, the regional minister forwarded to them yet another agreement proposed by the Chinese.
In a copy of the agreement seen by Media Without Borders, the Chinese said the money would be paid in installments. They also gave each of the two local mining groups some conditions as part of the agreement.
“The partner shall no longer cause negative media publications against the company and its management staff and shall resolve potential future business conflicts in a respectful and professional manner,” the agreement says in parts.
Minister’s negotiation motivated by his personal gains― Ndanbon
A frustrated and furious Ndanbon told Media Without Borders the regional minister was interfering “too much” in his business.
He said he believed the regional minister was doing so for personal gains and in support of the Chinese company.
“If he doesn’t have an interest, why should he be meddling too much in my private business? I never asked the regional minister to negotiate for me. Even it got to a time I asked him, I said ‘Minister, are you part of my company? You are not a member of my company. You are not a director of my company. You are not my family member. Why are you negotiating for me?’ I asked these questions before. My business did not suffer this mess even under the NDC government.
“I haven’t taken anything from Earl International. I have no agreement with Earl International. We don’t have any business doing with Earl International. I didn’t ask the minister to negotiate for me. He is using the presidency to frustrate my business and to give my business to the Chinese. He is causing a lot of damage to the government by interfering in people’s businesses. I’m telling you my pain with anger,” Ndanbon said.
When Word FM, a broadcaster based at Zuarungu in the region, engaged the regional minister on the matter on May 11, 2023, he said he had withdrawn from negotiating for Ndanbon.
“I don’t know what else he wants me to do. He has told everybody that he has not asked me to act on his behalf and I have left it and I have told the company that the person I’m talking for said I should not speak for him again; so, they should deal with him directly,” he was quoted as saying.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org