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