Mining has gone on in Ghana for over a century but, sadly, there is little to show for the blessing nature has bestowed on the country.
We have allowed ourselves to be exploited for decades, offering mouthwatering incentives to foreign mining companies so that they will mine our land as if they are doing us a favour.
Unfortunately, although we have virtually offered free of charge large tracts of land to be mined, we have received next to nothing, as the minerals mined have been airlifted abroad to be refined, while much of the profit from such multi-billion-dollar enterprises has been repatriated to the home countries of the mining companies.
It is, therefore, refreshing news that Ghana, the second largest producer of gold in Africa, has taken steps to right the wrong we have done ourselves, even though it is coming very late in the day.
We cannot but agree totally with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo that it is not right that Africa, which is rich in minerals sought after by the world, should remain inhabited by the poorest people in the world.
It is a tragedy, as he said at the 2019 edition of “Investing in African Mining Indaba” in Cape Town, South Africa yesterday, that “Africa has made the world rich with our minerals; our gemstones adorn crowns and homes around the world but we have remained poor while our lands have been destroyed”.
Minerals are finite and if we have decided to mine them, it stands to reason that we must not only mine responsibly and sustainably but also ensure that we get value for money.
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Indeed, as President Akufo-Addo stated, African countries had not done well in negotiations with mining companies that mined the continent’s minerals in the past.
The call on the continent not to give unusual tax and royalty incentives because Africa had come of age could not have come at a better time.
It does not make sense, and it is ironic that our mining communities from where so much wealth has been mined and sent abroad are so impoverished and look so dead just because of some archaic and unfair clauses in agreements signed by governments with mining companies.
Stability clauses in agreements, for instance, put the mining companies at advantageous positions, whereas the countries where the minerals are mined pay the heavy price of receiving next to nothing as the minerals are mined. What is worse is that the companies are not constrained to develop the communities.
In the name of corporate social responsibility and pitiable royalties, the companies pretend to be giving back to society while, in actual fact, the communities are being robbed in daylight.
The Daily Graphic believes that if in the past Africa behaved naively, we need to wise up and demand what we actually deserve. It should be a win-win affair and negotiations must be fair.
The mining industry can help in the economic transformation of the continent and make Africans prosper if our leaders enter agreements with the people in mind.
Mining is capital intensive but we need to grow the industry by building refineries and putting in place other structures that will wean us from the current total dependence on foreign mining companies.