Government has suspended the issuance of new gold prospecting licences with effect from today to help free- up unused concessions for prospective investors.
The purpose of the moratorium is to enable the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Minerals Commission, to clean-up the mineral concessions register and crack down on speculators who have held licences for long periods without complying with their terms and conditions.
Alhaji Inussah Fuseini, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, in a signed statement said: “The moratorium applies only to applications for reconnaissance and prospecting gold licences, and does not apply to small-scale gold mining licences as well as other minerals.
“Reconnaissance and prospecting gold licence applications already submitted to the Minerals Commission will continue to be processed accordingly.”
The moratorium will expire on September 30, 2014.
The Minister urged investors in the sector to support this effort of the ministry and commission to ensure compliance with the Minerals and Mining Law (Act 703) and Minerals and Mining Licencing Regulations (LI 2176).
As of December 2013, about 235 local and foreign companies held prospecting licences to explore gold in the minerals sector.
Out of this, about 184 licences are held by Ghanaians while foreigners control 51 licences.
The country’s laws allow investors prospecting for gold to hold their licences for up to three years, after which they are expected to apply for a mining lease.
Dr. Toni Aubynn, Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission, explained: “There is need to clean up the system because we have realised that many companies are holding on to vast concessions granted to them several years ago without undertaking any prospecting work on them.
“Some of the companies have been active in prospecting; some of them too have held the licence only for speculative reasons. That is not the purpose for which those licences were given.”
The country’s mining industry was hard hit last year by a slump in global gold prices, with gold production declining by 5 percent in 2013.
Official figures from the Minerals Commission said output fell from 4.324 million ounces in 2012 to 4.12 million ounces last year following a 28 percent drop in the metal’s price -- which was the first annual fall in 13 years.