Friday, May 30, 2014

Gov’t suspends issuance of gold-prospecting licences

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.

The value of gold produced in 2013 was US$5.8billion, compared to US$6.5billion in 2012, when output jumped by 17 percent.                                                                         

‘Entrepreneurs are critical for growth’

United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has said entrepreneurs are critical for growth and building of businesses across the world, during an interaction with young entrepreneurs at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in East Legon, Accra.

“The work of entrepreneurs is extremely important for global growth. We want our youth to start businesses. If we help with start-ups around the world, we can spur on global growth,” she said.  

“Entrepreneurship is good for every country. That’s why we introduced the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), which involves US agencies and some of the well-known American private sector leaders, to provide mentorship and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs across the world. We know it will be good for Ghana and the world at large.”

The PAGE is an Obama initiative built around leading private sector companies and executives in the United States, who mentor and inspire young people at home and across selected countries.

Presently, there are 11 self-made successful businessmen and women who are committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas and experience to help inspire and grow the next generation of entrepreneurs across the world.

Ms. Pritzker’s visit to MEST was part of PAGE’s efforts to motivate youth across the world, including those in Ghana, to start enterprises and benefit from access to market and technical support opportunities in the US.

She encouraged the entrepreneurs at MEST to continue giving their best and assured that her department will assist them to meet their corporate goals and objectives.

MEST assists young Ghanaians to set up information and communications technology-related enterprises after receiving two year of training. 

Some of the enterprises there have become global icons, rendering services to blue-chip companies in the US and other parts of the world from their incubator office in Ghana. 

They include ClaimSync -- a company that builds software which enables hospitals to the management of patients’ records. The company has been acquired by GenKey, a global biometrics company.

Ms. Pritzker was in the company of Ms. Nina Vaca, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Pinnacle Group, a US$600-million firm founded by the CEO in her living room with only US$300.

According to Ms. Vaca, while access to capital is important in business, access to opportunities, education, training and -- above all -- inspiration is equally critical.

Kingston Tagoe, a young entrepreneur with MEST, in an interview with B&FT explained that the programme receives graduates for training of two years.

“MEST seeks out talented college graduates who are interested in entrepreneurship, technology and business to participate in the programme. 

"Once accepted, entrepreneurs receive hands-on training in software development, basic business fundamentals and entrepreneurship in a fast-paced, challenging, start-up environment -- whereby we develop software applications and prepare those applications for launch in the global marketplace. 

After two years of training, we receive funding from investors to enable us start our companies.

“We have people coming from all over the world to share and transfer knowledge in much more different ways. The exposure and experience has been awesome,” Tagoe said.

MEST, founded in 2007, is a non-profit training and mentoring programme established by Meltwater to enable Africans become software entrepreneurs. 

Its goal is to teach MEST students the skills required to launch breakthrough global companies, enabling them to create jobs and wealth locally.