Coalition on Mining questions Dr. Aubynn’s appointment as head of Minerals Commission

Dr. Toni Aubynn

Dr. Toni Aubynn

The National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) has called on President John Mahama to reconsider his decision to appoint Dr. Tony Aubynn as Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission, a body mandated by law to regulate and manage the minerals sector in the national interest.

The Coalition describes as “shocking” the appointment of Dr. Aubynn, stating that “the appointment points to a pattern of capitulation by the Mahama government to the interests of foreign mining capital”.

The National Coalition on Mining is a grouping of CSOs, community groups and individuals who work for the respect of human rights in mining and optimal national and citizens’ benefit from the country’s mineral resources.

The full text is reproduced below:
Champion of transnational mining companies
Dr. Aubynn is a citizen of Ghana. However, our call, shock and concerns arise from the fact that Tony Aubynn is a champion of transnational mining companies. Until his appointment, he was the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines in which position he consistently defended the interest of transnational mining companies.

There is a record of his pronouncements in defence of these interests which are not only diametrically opposed to the optimisation of national benefit from the country’s non-renewal mineral resources but raises questions about his capacity to discharge the responsibilities as head of the Minerals Commission impartially and equitably.

A striking example of his defence of corporate interests has been his role in the campaign in Ghana and around the world against efforts to raise royalties and taxes paid by the mining companies. At a time when gold prices had risen astronomically (from $400 in 2003 to almost $1900 in 2011) and government wanted to introduce legislation to capture a lot more of the share of this bounty, the Chamber of Mines, fronted by Dr. Aubynn, resisted this move. This was based on the palpably false claim that the industry was overtaxed.

In seeking to deflect the demand for a greater national share of mineral earnings, the Chamber tried to make itself the champion of a greater community share of royalties.

Worrying pattern
Dr. Aubynn’s appointment comes soon after President Mahama used the 2014 Davos World Economic Forum to make public his government’s capitulation to the mining companies. It was there that he announced that in response to their pressure the government was shelving its plan to impose a windfall tax aimed at increasing the public share of mineral earnings.

Is it unreasonable to assume that Dr. Aubynn’s appointment to head the Mineral Commission does not only underline the influence of the mining companies in the corridors of power but also means that they now have a firm ally in charge of the key public body overseeing the mining sector?

The context of Dr. Aubynn’s appointment makes the President’s decision even more shocking and worrying. The decision of the Mills government to raise mineral royalties and review the most unfair mining contracts placed Ghana in a global and African process where mineral rich countries, from Australia to Zambia, were taking steps to increase national earnings from increased global mineral prices. Domestically a mining contract renegotiating committee chaired by Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr has been set up and has been working with the close support of the Minerals Commission.

Over the past few years Ghana has been an active participant in the development of the Africa Mining Vision and the formulation of steps for its realisation. Mr. Ben Aryee, the ousted CEO of the Minerals Commission, distinguished himself as Ghana’s representative in these processes and also earned the respect of his peers for his intellectual contributions. Across the world mining companies mounted a campaign against steps which they denounce as “resource nationalism”.

The negative attitude of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, expressed by Dr. Aubynn, is our local experience of this corporate resistance to change.

Unfit for purpose
Given Dr. Aubynn’s long standing defense of the interests of transnational mining firms we doubt his capacity to be impartial, equitable and lead the drive towards the optimal use of Ghana’s mineral wealth for the benefit of its people. We have serious doubts about Dr. Aubynn’s ability to serve the national interest as CEO of the Minerals Commission, especially at this juncture when the whole of African continent is moving to break with the mining regimes that subordinated national to corporate interests.

Given his history as a champion of mining corporate interests we wonder how Dr. Aubynn can effectively head a state organization which should be ensuring that the mining industry develops better environmental and social sensitivity, and that the country derives maximum benefit from its mineral assets and also be a leading voice in the ECOWAS and Africa reform process.

Is it unreasonable to fear that the Commission under his leadership will prioritise the interest of the companies for whom he has been such an energetic mouthpiece?

Over the past few years the National Coalition on Mining, communities and other civil society organisations have been working with the Minerals Commission to improve interaction and mutual confidence between mining policy makers and society towards reducing the negative impacts of mining while improving the contribution of the sector to national development and citizens’ benefit.

A lot of work remains to be done in this regard. The appointment of a defender of corporate mining interests to the important office of CEO of the Minerals Commission is not a good signal for the health of these collaborative relations.

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