Ghana's newly-appointed Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, has vowed to resolve all concerns and issues obstructing growth of the country’s promising salt industry.
“I will seek to resolve all concerns and issues around the salt deposit at Ada, including ownership, livelihood, and compensation to attract foreign investors to the project.
“It was in the light of this that the Ministry constituted a committee to study the situation on the ground and assess the compensation due expropriated interest holders of the Ada Songor salt project.”
Sharing his vision with officials of the Minerals Commission in Accra, Minister Mills said with the oil find, the country can benefit immensely if the salt industry is fully developed as a source of input for the Jubilee partners.
“My vision is to make the country a leading salt producer in the West Coast of Africa. I will work hard and collaborate with the Minerals Commission and other stakeholders to uplift the salt industry in Ghana to take its rightful place in Africa,” he said.
He indicated that the salt industry holds huge prospects for the country and Ghana can make enormous revenues from the sector, and also create jobs for the teeming jobless youth.
The salt industry is inevitably an area that needs to be exploited for the socio- economic development of our country, he said.
Presently, the Ada Songor salt-producing area is in a deplorable state, and heavily encroached by indigenes.
A company that was registered in 1992 never took off; its operations are still at the construction stage and the facilities are in a deplorable state…the site appears to have been abandoned.
There are also multiple and conflicting claims to the land by 'supposed' land owners. What, then, is the way forward?
Neighboring countries like Togo, Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso import salt from Brazil, Australia and Europe.
Ghana and Senegal are the only two countries along the West Coast with the right climatic conditions and suitable land to produce appreciable quantities of salt.
The country’s capacity for salt production is estimated at about 2.5 million tonnes per annum, but is only able to produce about 250,000 metric tonnes currently.
Together, Senegal and Ghana produce only a fraction of the demand for salt in the sub- region, leaving neighbours with no option other than to import from far away countries. In 2005, Ghana exported 51,150 tonnes of salt valued at about US$2.31million.
Market studies have also revealed that there is a great demand for Ghana’s salt, especially in neigbouring Nigeria which imports approximately US$1.5billion worth of salt from Australia and Brazil yearly to meet domestic demand and feed its oil industry.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report on salt and iodisation in August 2004, the total annual demand of salt in the sub-region was 4.5million tonnes.
The country’s salt industry dates back to the trans-Saharan trade. History indicates that the Ghana, Mali and Songai empires traded in salt, gold and Ivory -- and most of the salt traded at the time came from modem Ghana.
Minister Mills also pledged his commitment to promote the lesser-known minerals such as the limestone.
“My interest is to see the development of iron ore deposits in the country. I also expect to evaluate the current data on all lesser-known minerals including clinker for the cement industry, and work with the Minerals Commission to promote exploitation of these minerals to move away from our dependence on few minerals -- Gold, Manganese, Diamond and Bauxite specifically.”
He called on the Commission to strengthen its monitoring role, especially for the operating large-scale mines as well as reconnaissance and prospecting companies, to ensure that they work according to the business plan for which their licences were granted.
He expressed regret about the continuous degradation of the country’s land and water resources, addingthat if drastic action is not taken on illegal mining, current and future generations will face serious environmental challenges.
“The illegal miners indiscriminately use harmful chemicals, such as mercury and cyanide which pollute the land and water-bodies,’’ he said.
Mr. Mills called for the support of all stakeholders to ensure the country wins the fight against illegal mining.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission, Dr. Toni Aubynn, expressed regret about the country’s over-reliance on gold to the neglect of other mineral resources.
He said the country could have averted the current economic challenges it is facing if it had paid attention to the other mineral resources, adding: “The country has huge mineral resources such as iron and limestone for the production of cement”.