Thursday, October 30, 2014

Small-scale miners push for bigger concessions

Small-scale miners have asked government to speedily review procedures in allocating mining concessions in the country, as the current measures favour large-scale companies.
The miners say government has wrongly prioritised major suitable mining areas to large-scale mining companies for minerals exploration, depriving prospective small-scale miners from having access to lands.

“We think that the allocation of the concessions was not properly done. Currently, what we are proposing is that we want government to take a second look and review all the various blockings and the concession allocations,” Edward Kwasi Akuoko, Director Policy & Research, Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Africa-Network (ASMAN), told B&FT in an interview.

In 2011, government in consultation with the Minerals Commission pledged to designate areas to be reserved for small-scale mining activity based on technical and financial viability.

The Minerals Commission was to develop standardised procedures, including adequate advance notice and community representation, in deliberations leading to the designation of areas.

Small-scale mining in the country is defined to include the exploitation of mineral deposits using fairly rudimentary implements at low levels of production, and with minimal capital investment.

Available checks estimate that over one million people are involved directly in small-scale mining, and over a million people benefit directly or indirectly from this activity.

In 2012, gold production from the activities of small-scale miners from both legal and illegal sources contributed approximately 800,000 metric tonnes, which is 28 percent of total gold production in the country.

Mr. Akuoko complained that the few areas with viable prospects for mining exploration activities have all been granted to the large-scale mining companies.

He said large-scale mining companies, which are very few with approximately 40 in the country’s mining industry, are holding on to about 70 percent of the mineable land.

“Most of them are not even working on the lands and just keeping them. This is what is depriving prospective small-scale miners of having access to land.

“At the moment there are a lot of prospective small-scale miners who have applied for land and they are not getting licence, that’s the main problem on the ground. That is why the small-scale menace is becoming prevalent in the country,” he said.

Mr. Akuoko further argued: “A mining company can acquire an over-300 kilometre square concession, meanwhile these small-scale miners who are indigenes that don’t need much large land size to make maximum use cannot get access to the lands.

“When people apply for licences for small-scale mining concessions they don’t get the land to work on.”

Dr. Toni Aubynn, Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission has vowed to position the small-scale mining industry to become efficient, indigenous and self-reliant.

“Government will work with, and encourage, mining companies to collaborate and give support to small-scale miners where it can be established that this will be in the mutual interest of the parties,” he said.

A London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) report on artisanal/small-scale mining has said small-scale mining produces about 85 percent of the world’s gemstones and 20-25 percent of all the gold. It also provides jobs and incomes for 20 to 30 million of the world’s poorest people, and supports the livelihoods of five times that number.

The report stated that artisanal/small-scale mining employs 10 times more people than large-scale mining. But it takes place in very remote areas, usually involves poor and vulnerable people -- including women and children -- and is renowned for severe pollution and harsh working conditions.

Newmont Akyem finances 2.5 kilometre road

Newmont Akyem is financing the construction of a 2.5 kilometre road from Adausena to New Abirem at the cost of US$2.5million as part of the company’s development agenda to help support communities where it operates.

The project, expected to be completed in nine months, is being executed by TOPS Construction limited, a local construction company in the area.

The Paramount Queen Mother of Akyem Kotuku Traditional Area, Nana Akua Asantewaa III, cut the sod for construction of project.

Addressing Chiefs and Assembly members from the mining-affected communities and officials of the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA), the General Manager of the Newmont Akyem Project .

Mr. Kevin Moxham, said the road is being constructed as a birthday present to the Queen Mother after she was invited by Newmont officials to their headquarters in Durban, USA, in May this year.

He said Nana Asantewaa could have requested for money, a 4×4 vehicle or other valuable items, but she asked for reconstruction of the road which was in a deplorable condition for the benefit of people in the area.

The Queen Mother on her part urged the Chiefs in the area and the Birim North District Assembly to mobilise resources and undertake development projects to enhance living standards for the inhabitants.

She also asked the contractor to employ some of the unskilled youth in the area during the construction, in an effort to reduce the frequent demonstrations by them against Newmont for jobs.
The Eastern Regional Maintenance Manager of the Ghana Highway Authority, Mr. Emmanuel Odoi, advised people whose lands were mined for gravel and chippings to sell same at reasonable prices to the contractor to help complete the project on schedule.

The Managing Director of TOPS Construction Limited, Nana Dr. Tano Thompson, said five youth from the area will be trained on bulldozer operation; excavator, back-hoe and compact operating equipment during construction of the road, and gave the assurance of completing the project on schedule.

Farmers in six cocoa-growing areas receive premium bonus

The Federated Commodity (FEDCO) a cocoa-buying company and its partners Walter Matter, South Africa, and Chocolate Frey in Switzerland have set aside GH¢2,442,000 to support cocoa famers in six cocoa-growing areas in the Western Region.

The areas to be supported include Wassa Akropong, Manso Amenfi, Asankragwa, Samreboi A&B and Akontonbra.

Alhaji Abdul Razak Adamu, Managing Director FEDCO, said this at a ceremony to officially hand over to farmers their share of the premium received from the certified cocoa sold during the 2013/2014 crop season. It was also to outdoor some projects implemented at Samreboi in the Western Region. 

The presentation forms part of the sustainability Project of Walter Matter SA and FEDCO, aimed at helping to develop cocoa producing communities which trade with the company.

He revealed that during the 2013/2014 crop season, the six districts involved in the project were able to produce close to 8,000MT of certified cocoa beans and that a total of GH¢1,042,000 was used to purchase and supply farm inputs and logistics to the farmers, while the other half went into provision of potable water for the communities.

He announced that a pilot Farmers Business School (FBS) will be started by FEDCO and its partners to build farmers’ capacity in entrepreneurial and management skills.

“The school will enable farmers to learn and improve their knowledge, change their attitudes and enhance their skills toward improved farm commercialisation,” he said.

Mr. Paul Evans Aidoo, Western Regional Minister, called on cocoa buying companies to extend their support to communities they buy their produce from.

The minister said a lot of cocoa producing communities face numerous challenges, including bad road network, lack of potable water, health facilities and other social amenities.

He said such challenges can be alleviated only if the cocoa buying companies extend their support to those communities.

He called on the cocoa farmers to desist from giving up their cocoa farms for illegal miners’  operations and rather use the land profitably by growing more cocoa, and urged them to make good use of the farm items presented to them.

FEDCO and its partners praised the cocoa farmers for the quality of their cocoa beans and encouraged them to keep to the quality standard always.

The Ghana Cocoa Board also used the occasion to reiterate its support to FEDCO in its activities to promote development.