Newmont pays over GH₵110 million as dividends to Ghana, but Ofori-Atta still re-cooking Agyapa

Ken Ofori Atta and Officials of Newmont Ghana Limited presenting the cheque to  Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Ken Ofori Atta and Officials of Newmont Ghana Limited presenting the cheque to Minister of Lands and Natural Resources

Newmont Ghana Limited has presented a dividend cheque for GH₵ 110,781,444.45 to the government through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

The amount which represents government's free carried interest for this year in the company, was presented to the Ministry on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 in Accra.

Ironically, while the Mines Minister was receiving the cheque, his powerful counterpart at the Finance Ministry, Ken Ofori-Atta was announcing that the Akufo-Addo government will re-submit a re-structured Agyapa Royalties Agreement to Parliament for approval.

The Agyapa Royalties deal which was to collateralize the country's mineral royalties, was rejected by Ghanaians on basis it was not in the interests of the country because the mineral royalties from the mineral resources were undervalued.

Besides, the country was going to make more money from the dividends compared to the Agyapa Royalties which started off as Asaase Royalties Limited but was changed at the behest of Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko because its name coincided with some companies including his Accra-based radio station; Asaase Radio.

Again, aside incorporating Agyapa Royalties in the British tax haven; Bailiwick of Jersey, it was ridden by conflict of interest and corruption with the involvement of the private companies of President Akufo-Addo's family members including Finance Minister and Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko.

But Mr. Ofori-Atta, at the inauguration of the Board of Mineral Income Investment Fund in Accra on the Tuesday, October 12, 2021 revealed that the Attorney-General has already reviewed a restructured deal and repackaged it to inure to the benefit of the state.

"The Attorney-General has looked at it and we have had a few stakeholder meetings and I think the new board should be energised to review that and then go through the Parliamentary process," he said.

Receiving the dummy cheque, the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor reiterated government's resolve to foster closer collaboration with all stakeholders in the mining sector.

He re-echoed the vision of the President, Nana Akufo-Addo to make Ghana the Mining hub of Africa and also build a mining industry that retains value in country.

Mr Jinapor said measures have been put in place to ensure greater partnership between Government and mining companies for the benefit of all parties.

A release from his ministry did not mention anything on the restructured Agyapa Royalties. He, however, commended the company for the presentation and encouraged the entity to make the dividend payment a yearly affair.

"The work Newmont does especially the adherence to environmental protocols and carrying communities along is highly appreciative and I want to encourage you to do more", he said.

He, therefore, called on other mining companies to emulate Newmont's gesture and follow suit.

The Regional Senior Vice President of Newmont Africa, Mr. Francois Hardy reaffirmed the company's commitment to Ghana adding that, "We are growing our operations here for the benefit of all stakeholders".

He also used the opportunity to appreciate the ongoing collaboration between the Ministry and Newmont and called for further support from Government, Stakeholders, Communities to help bring the Ahafo North project into fruition.

Mr. Hardey said that despite the Covid 19 pandemic that affected economic activities globally, the company plays the necessary interventions to keep it work force and communities safe.

"Lessons learnt during the pandemic has exposed us to new ways of operating and hence our ability to be able to present the 2021 dividend to Government", he concluded.

The controversial Agyapa deal, was approved by Parliament but was withdrawn by government following a damaging Corruption Risk assessment by the former Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu in which he described the President, Nana Akufo-Addo as "the mother serpent of corruption".

He confirmed the involvement of Ken Ofori-Atta's private company Databank as well as the involvement of his cousin, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko's law firm; African Legal Associates in the transaction too.

The Corruption Risk Assessment revealed that there was reasonable suspicion of bid-rigging and corruption activity in the selection process of the deal.

It was also discovered that the transaction was embroiled in infractions regarding relationships and conflict of interest.

The newly inaugurated board has been tasked with the sole objective of getting the deal operational.

"I'm unequivocal that it is the way to go in terms of monetizing our minerals and finding a way to leverage it to reduce the level of debt of the country and move it into equity. And with the concerns that were raised we should be able to address them and move forward," Mr Ofori-Atta added.

On August 14, 2020, Parliament approved the Agyapa Minerals Royalties Investment Agreement and four related documents to allow for the monetisation of Ghana's future gold royalties.

Under the agreement, Agyapa Mineral Royalties Limited has been incorporated in Jersey to receive and manage royalties from 16 gold mining leases over the next 15 years or so.

In exchange, the firm will list on the London and Ghana Stock Exchanges (GSE) and raise at least $500 million for government to invest in infrastructure, health and education.

The listing will allow private people to buy a 49 per cent stake in the firm.

However, some 22 civil society organisations called for a suspension of the deal, insisting it was not in the interest of Ghana, mineral experts and internationally recognized institutions also described it as a rip off of a nation.