Speakers at the on-going 63rd Annual New Year School and Conference on Friday, stressed the need for a holistic cost analysis of Ghana’s minerals sector to assess the actual economic benefits and environmental impact over the years.
They argued that the assessment would help address the possible challenges of the effective and efficient management of the oil and gas resource for national development.
Mr Daniel Twerefou, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Ghana contributing to a symposium on the topic: “Yellow Gold” Management for the Past Half-Century: Implications for the “Black Gold”, said Ghana had failed to manage her mineral resources over the years to yield the required dividend for national development.
He indicated that issues of the minerals industry were inter-generational in nature and had serious environmental and social challenges, which needed critical value placement to ascertain the level of destruction which involved both socio-economic, environmental and health implications in mining communities.
Mr Twerefou cited the failure of Ghana’s mining sector to contribute meaningfully to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country as a clear indication of the weak local content of her mineral policy and ineffective management of the resource.
“We are getting a negative impact from the mining sector as a result of poor management, resulting from weak monitoring structures to ensure that mining companies adhered strictly to laid down regulations governing the sector,” he said.
He said it was worrying that after half a century of gold mining, Ghana could not boast of any positive impact and maximum benefits due to poor management systems, resulting from weak policies and monitoring structures.
Mr Twerefou said these had led to the various breaches in environmental and safety laws, regulation in mining communities and conflicts in respect to landownership and benefits in royalties.
He cited instances of civil wars in neighbouring countries some of which were triggered by the mismanagement in the sharing of the resources of the country and urged government not to lose sight of the growing tensions in mining communities as a result of poverty and youth unemployment.
“What we need to do as a country is to provide a Long Term National Strategy that builds on existing structures based on broad political consensus,” he said.
He indicated that there existed numerous knowledge and lessons from past mining activities in the county to provide leadership for the oil and gas sector, yet it could derive maximum benefit from its new discoveries if the past lessons were positively applied in future to bring about the required changes for the hopeful development of the country.
Mr Twerefou said: “We must also put in place policies that would ensure effective facilitation of petroleum businesses by supporting the private sector to add value to create spillover of related commodities on the market,” he said.
He called for the streamlining of regulations and decoupling of the Petroleum Energy Policy and focusing on development of a Petroleum Policy to guide the sector.
Mr Twerefou observed that most often, financial considerations tended to override local participation in petroleum agreements and suggested that procurement procedures be effectively monitored, defining clearly and quantitatively local content in terms of employment and value addition for the country to derive maximum benefit from it.
He said government must develop strategies to monitor activities of multi-national companies to ensure technology transfer and adoption of local situation.
“There is so much information on oil revenue management now that we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes made years ago to the detriment of our future generations.”
Mr Daniel Owusu Kwarteng, Executive Director of Wassa Communities Affected by Mining, an association that champions the course of mining communities, called for visionary leadership to prevent power imbalances in the oil and gas sector.
He expressed worry about the fact that mining companies had strong lobbying networks and were able to easily attract the government’s ear in their favour and as a result winning concessions in reserved areas where the already impoverished, illiterate and unorganised communities might suffer the ensuing consequence.
Mr Kwarteng highlighting on some grassroots issues to buttress arguments of poor contribution of gold mining to the economy, cited poor compensation practices of mining companies as a major disincentive to local farmers.
He said most farmers had lost their farmlands to such mining activities without adequate compensation, while others in their quest to make a living had given in to pressures and monetary attractions of multi-national companies to sell reserved forest lands for mining activities irrespective of their consequences on their communities.
Mr Kwarteng blamed the Government for setting a bad precedence by allowing mining concession in forest reserves, adding “When government teaches bad lessons the citizens learn fast”.
He urged government to take a cue from the challenges of neighbouring countries who had suffered dearly from their inactions to put in place appropriate structures for wealth creation for their people and tackle issues of rising tensions in various communities with seriousness, to ensure that the oil find became a blessing for Ghana rather than a curse.