Let the rules reign in mining operations

The government has an­nounced the intention of four new large-scale mining compa­nies to start operations in the country within the next 24 months. (See story on page 11).

The new mines will comprise three gold mining firms and one lithium concern.

Before this time, the gov­ernment had made significant investments in the redevelop­ment and expansion of existing mines such as the Obuasi and the Bibiani mines.

Another significant thing the government is doing to promote more investment in the mining sector is that it is undertaking a general review of the Mining Policy adopted in 2014, and the Minerals and Mining Act passed in 2006, to align them with current devel­opments in the mining industry.

On top of them all, the gov­ernment has decided to shift from the status quo regarding exporting the country’s min­erals in their raw forms and rather add value to them before exporting them.

The government is very particular about lithium in that regard.

It is obvious that all these are being done or going to be done to increase the production of and receipts from these resources and enhance the other benefits associated with mining.

We can easily think of some of such other benefits as employment and social responsibility activities or interventions by the mining companies in their host communi­ties and elsewhere in the country.

While expecting these companies to come on stream and the existing ones continuing with their operations, the govern­ment must envision not only the good things min­ing would bring the nation but also the odds that can erupt.

Have the communities going to host the new companies been engaged enough about what are going to be their benefits, losses and responsibilities?

We know employment for local community members and certain community-specific projects are obvious, but what about the perception of loss of land, environ­mental degradation and the disappointments that usually result in conflicts?

By way of citing in­stances, we refer to a record about the Gold Fields mining company.

The Gold Fields em­ployed 70 per cent of its workforce from the host communities but at a point, its Tarkwa mine changed its business op­erating model from owner mining to contractor min­ing, necessitating the re­trenchment of over 2,500 employees. The company did well to get majority of the retrenched employees absorbed by the mining contractors.

What was even remark­able and commendable was that the company ensured qualified commu­nity residents were given preferential jobs during the transition to contract mining.

What if the company had left all the local workforce to its fate?

It could be the case that Gold Fields did not envisage the contractor mining at the onset, but it happened and so it had to find a way around it.

Has the government called the attention of community members, especially those go­ing to be employed by the new companies, to some of these unforeseen occurrences?

There is also the possibil­ity that illegal miners would encroach on the companies’ concessions and the culprits must be prosecuted as Gold Fields did illegal miners who encroached on its Tarkwa and Damang concessions.

We also know the host com­munities would suffer some negative impacts like the force of blasts and some degrada­tion of their land or environ­ment.

All we are saying is that there are records of prece­dents relating to mining that must guide the operations of the new mining companies for the host communities and, for that matter, the entire country to enjoy their full benefits

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