Monday, February 29, 2016

Waste management by-laws need strengthening

Discussants at a plastic waste management debate have called for an urgent review of the country’s waste management by-laws to help maintain environmental cleanliness in the country’s cities, which has remained a daunting task for local authorities over the years.

They agreed that despite all efforts, the country simply has not found above-average solutions to waste management; be it solid, liquid, hazardous or even radioactive materials. 

The discussants, Dr. Edward Larbi-Siaw, Tax Policy Adviser at the Ministry of Finance; Mrs. Ama Ofori-Antwi, Executive Secretary of Environmental Services Providers Association; and Mr. Quaranchie Adama-Tettey, Project Coordinator, Plastic Water Collectors Association, made this known in Accra at a panel discussion organised by the Ghana Journalist Association’s Business Advocate programme.

Aimed at exploring some of the causes for the country’s environmental sanitation policy dilemma and considering the possible way forward, the programme was supported by the Business Sector Advocacy Fund (BUSAC), Denmark Embassy and the United States Agency for International Development.

Dr. Larbi-Siaw disclosed government has so far received GH¢44.3million from the waste management fund between 2011 and 2014, and that the money is yet to be disbursed to the various service providers to enable them to manage waste in an effective and efficient manner, because the regulations to govern its operations are not ready.

He was optimistic that by the end of 2016 the required legal regulations and document on disbursement modalities will have been developed to ensure onward transfer of the funds to service providers in waste management.

Dr. Larbi-Siaw explained that when the legal documentation is finalised for disbursement, it will follow the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund’s structure.
“Let me assure our stakeholders that government is committed in giving out the money. We want to increase productivity in the economy.

“The modalitieswill be spelt out and we are even thinking about migrating onto the green fund, and they should rely on government -- both Ministry of Finance and Local Government -- for our highest support.”

He explained that waste management is a shared responsibility and urged Ghanaians to keep their surroundings clean. “Water scarcity or pollution means fish stocks will reduce, soil degradation reduces yields and output, and deforestation pushes you near to desert conditions. This is why it is in the interests of government to ensure that environmental cleanliness is in place.

“If we get enough funding the general public awareness will be enhanced, which will require capacity development, information sharing, education and communication,” he stated.

Mr. Adama-Tettey confirmed working with some city authorities and dealing with people based on the waste management by-laws; and said that in 2007 city authorities introduced a programme on plastic waste to promote easy collection for recycling. 

This, he said, has grown over time and generated a lot of income and employment for a lot of Ghanaians, with minor waste collectors numbering over 7,000; but it has observed some major challenges and cost implications because of lacking logistics. 

Commenting on punitive measures under the by-laws, he indicated that the current fine of GH¢300 or in default six months imprisonment is outrageous -- but he suggested the inclusion of Community Service as a penalty or sentence on conviction for open littering, which would be much easier to enforce and “I trust that the review could deal with some of the challenges”.

Ofori-Antwi called for effective enforcement of the sanitation laws: “We need enforcement for the sanitation by-laws.  It’s illegal to openly dump refuse, practice open defecation, littering, burning refuse, and refusing to subscribe to service providers in waste management. So we need to enforce and do a lot of education”.

She called for strengthening the assemblies which have the power to enforce, adding that for service providers the delay in paying for services rendered is a bane that threatens their survival.
She explained that sanitation should be embedded in the property rate so that the service provider will not go from house to house to collect debts.

“This should be backed by policy and be embedded in an existing system. This policy dimension is required to salvage the mess we are in now,” she remarked.

Nii Osah Mills pushes jewellery industry policy

Nii Osah Mills, Minister for Land and Natural Resources, says the policy to develop the jewellery industry will not yield the desired benefits if the country continue to refine gold abroad, as the establishment of a gold refinery has attracted considerable debate in the country.

“There is a policy to develop the jewellery industry, but the projected industry will not yield the desired benefits if we continue to refine our gold outside the country.

“Indeed, government sees the merit in having our own refineries for many reasons; among which is the fact that Ghana will enjoy the competitive advantages in terms of downstream industries that may be established in the gold industries,” said Minister Mills at the sidelines of the minerals and mining policy launch that brought together industry players and major stakeholders.

 He indicated that a viable jewellery industry can flourish only if jewellers have easy access to relatively cheap refined 99.99 purity gold.

Dr. Toni Aubynn, Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission in a recent interview confirmed that establishing gold refineries in the country in the coming years will position the country to add value to the precious metal and get real monetary value, as the gold price fluctuation continues in the world market. 

The country boasts five registered established gold refineries located in various parts of the country; some are producing and others are due to be operational by close of the year.

The country is second-largest producer of gold in Africa and 9th in the world, and has only a few small gold refineries refining gold produced by small-scale miners. Almost 100% of the gold produced from large as well as small-scale producers is exported without value addition.

Speaking with B&FT on a wide range of issues in the minerals and mining sector, Dr. Aubynn, confirmed that owing to the fluctuation of global gold prices: “Establishment of gold refineries will set the country on a better standing, as it is prudent to add value to its precious metal to get real monetary value from it”.

The country produced a total of 4.4million ounces of gold. Small-scale gold miners produced a total of 1.5 million ounces, which amounts to about 34% of total gold produced. The mining sector contributed 16% of total government revenue.

The country is the second-highest gold producing nation in Africa after South Africa, and has attracted major multinational mining companies including Newmont Mining Corporation, Gold Fields Limited, AngloGold Ashanti, and Golden Star Resources among others.

These companies export the raw metal for processing overseas due to lack of an in-country refinery.
Government early last year announced its readiness to partner any investor to help establish a gold refinery plant for adding value to the country’s gold.

B&FT has gathered that ASAP VASA Company Limited -- a multi-million dollar high capacity refinery plant, a major gold refinery plant in the country operating and refining 100 kilogrammes of gold daily into granules, coins and bars -- purchases all of its raw gold from licenced small-scale miners and refines it to international quality standards of 99.9% fineness for the local and international gold markets.

Dr. Aubynn said the country’s minerals and mining sector is well-positioned to serve the West African market, and that the advent of these refineries will position the industry as a hub for refining gold in the sub-region.

He urged the companies to focus on their strategies for positioning themselves to be the West African hub, and these are the targets of the refineries. “The companies want to be able to refine for West Africa, so it is not only Ghana that they are targetting. If things go well it will be good for Ghana.

“Those local refineries should consider and refine produce from the multinational gold mining companies, especially Newmont, Gold Fields among others,” Dr. Aubynn remarked.

Gov’t ready to cede portion of AGA’s concession to small-scale miners

Minister for Lands and Natural Resources Nii Osah Mills has said government is committed to handing over the portion of AngloGold Ashanti’s mine concession that will be ceded soon to government. 
“As part of the solution to calm tension in Obuasi and create employment, government will allow small-scale miners to take over part of the mine that will be ceded from AngloGold Ashanti. 

“Under the minerals and mining act, where a lease is granted to a company, that mining company has a choice to decide at a point to give part of the land that forms the leased area back to government. 

“It is a process, and the process is far advanced and will soon come to a close; and once that portion is finalised it means that others can work on those portions AngloGold Ashanti will give away.” 

B&FT has gathered that AngloGold Ashanti is planning to cede over two-thirds of its Obuasi Mine to government.

This comes after some miners clashed with staff of AngloGold Ashanti, which led to the death of the company’s Communications Manager, Mr. John Owusu.

Chief Executive Officer of AngloGold Ashanti, Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, in an earlier media conference said Anglogold will soon cede part of it mine concession to government.

“Importantly long-term sustainability requires mining companies to co-exist with their communities, and we are continuing to provide essential services to the community. We are in the process of relinquishing about two-thirds of a large concession area that we currently have back to government, which is the only entity we can relinquish to. Government will then have to redistribute to the small-scale miners, which will then provide a permanent solution to the problems. 

“Government has opened up and told the illegal miners, ‘Come register and let’s licence your operations and we will give you the mine’. But recently we have had some intrusions in the northern part of the mine, but predominantly most of the work we have done is in the southern part of the mine.”

He however urged government to flush out illegal miners currently occupying the Obuasi concession, as it impacts negatively on the country as an investment destination.