Ghana needs economic growth agenda to operate alongside mineral wealth – Mineworkers

Speakers at the opening of the Ghana Mineworkers Union five-day 10th quadrennial conference in Sunyani, have expressed worry that Ghana lacked a detailed economic growth agenda to operate alongside her mineral wealth.

They noted that unlike other parts of the world where mining had helped to trigger “momentous economic changes”, the situation in Ghana was nothing to talk about.

The theme for the event was “Blending the interests of stakeholders in the Mining Industry towards Operational Excellence”.

Mr Prince William Ankrah, General Secretary of the Union, said despite the many years of mining in the Tarkwa Municipality and Obuasi, there has been little infrastructure and commercial impact except the recent influx of banks to these areas.

“The poor state of infrastructure in the country’s mining towns including Prestea, Bogoso, Bibiani and Akwatia are memories that our generation can hardly forget. In spite of all the inadequacies that have caught up with us for hundred years of mining in Ghana, we are still muddling through”, he said.

Mr Ankrah called on civil society groups, trade unions and the youth to forge an alliance to debate the negative trends and compel managers of the national economy “to shift from our comfort zones and begin to re-assess their leadership in dealing with the complexities associated with the Ghana plc.

He said the situation was more compelling currently then ever and the nation could not continue to tolerate excuses as resources generated from “our gold rush” could not showcase any symbolic initiated projects.

Mr Ankrah said “The youth are not getting fair share of the cake through sustainable job opportunities beyond mining”, adding that projects initiated during the Nkrumah regime such as the Aboso Glass Factory and Bonsaso Tyres appeared to be history in Ghana’s urban distribution of projects.

Mr Ankrah cited that the “California Gold Rush” in the United States of America in the 19th century was an event that accelerated a chain of inter-related consequences, all of which facilitated economic growth.

He noted that the event happened when the country was just about to feel the growing impact of the Industrial Revolution that in the next half century would transform the country from agrarian society into an industrial giant.

Mr Ankrah said “In both state and nation it spurred the creation of thousands of new businesses, banks and financial institutions. It stimulated rapid agricultural expansion, quickened the volume of trade and commerce and created demands for new forms of transportation”.

Mr Ankrah stressed that the Governments needed to make greater efforts at changing Ghana’s fortunes so that the country could have well-planned cities and communities in the mining areas and not current ‘ghost’ status of the mining areas.

He said successive post-independence governments must, however, be commended for the strong community interventions that facilitated the attraction of foreign direct investment with minimal obstruction.

Mr Ankrah said: “We are, however, concerned about the ownership structure of the government’s stake in mineral wealth of our dear country. The Union will campaign along with other civil society pressure groups to dilute the foreign capital component of the stake in the existing ownership apportionment.

“The case of Debeers and the Botswana Government can be explored. Their arrangement is fifty-fifty. The Government may have to further invest in mining exploration and develop appropriate bankable documents so as to offer the state a clear insight into the reserves available. Royalties must also be well apportioned and use for earmarked development projects with the view to facilitating the sustainability programme”.

Mr Kabral Blay Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission, said that it was dangerous to denigrate the role of the various stakeholders in the mining industry because of their criticisms of its operations.

He noted that some of the criticisms might be uncalled for and injurious to the reputation of some operators but they at the same time should put those corporate bodies on “their toes” and open up opportunities to address pertinent issues relating to those undesirable reports.

Mr Amihere stated: “We need to take cognizance of the fact that most importantly the championing roles some of the stakeholders play enable new laws to be enacted to address some challenging situations.”

“They also enable the general public to learn of what companies do for their employees, communities, governments and their shareholders as well as provide an insight into why some companies are performing so well”.

Mr Amihere noted that the new change in focus in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility would provide a new direction for the industry, especially because of its huge impact on communities, environment, general safety, food and personal security.

He said governments would be compelled to introduce more stringent regulations in all aspects of mining to protect the citizenry against perceived and real abuses, speculative activities, security of the products and generally, how mining businesses were conducted.

“It is general knowledge that the minerals in a country are held in trust by Presidents for the people. Government, therefore, cannot fail in this major responsibility by not allowing mineral extraction companies to conduct business in a way that will be inimical to the people and development thereof”, Mr Amihere said.

Mr Kofi Asamoah, Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress, said it was time the view that mining had not contributed much to national development was confronted with either the right facts or a radical overhaul of mining rules.

He noted that in spite of all the hype about benefits of mining operations, average earnings in the industry was seventh and below average earnings in the fishing and education sub-sectors.

“That is very surprising but it is the 2006 data from the Ghana Statistical Service. Even more surprising is the level of pay inequities in the mining industry particularly between so-called expatriate staff and locals, Mr Asamoah said.

Mr Asamoah said it was unacceptable that within the same mining industry, someone would earn almost $40,000 per month while others earned below US$500 per month.

“Such huge inequity is obscene irrespective of the qualification and experience of the various recipients”, he said, and lauded the initiative of the Union and its “Agenda 500”, which aimed at ensuring that no miner in Ghana earned below $500.

Mr Asamoah called for measures to reduce inequities and clean up the image of mining and asked stakeholders in the industry to work together to ensure that the country did not continue to rely on the huge numbers of expatriate staff.

Mr Dan Owiredu, President of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, stressed the need for mining operators and stakeholders to analyze and share information about the impact of the various businesses in terms of economic results, social responsibility and environmental consequences.

“I believe that it is only when performance management is made to involve key issues such as stakeholder management, responsible stakeholder conduct, corporate transparency that ultimately operational excellence will become a much less challenging issue”, he said.

Mr David Kern, Vice President, Human Resources Newmont Ahafo Region, said whilst other industries were struggling in a difficult world economy the gold price was robust and the industry was experiencing renewed capital investment and growth.

He explained that the robust gold price meant the company could invest $1 billion in its Akyem mine, double gold production by the year 2017, longer life span of mines and the provision of more jobs.

Source: GNA

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