Bauxite company won’t collapse - Minister assures workers

BY: Kwadwo Baffoe-Donkor & Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Mr George Mireku Duker, a Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, addressing the workers
Mr George Mireku Duker, a Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, addressing the workers

The government has assured workers of the Ghana Bauxite Company (GBC) at Awaso in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai municipality in the Western North Region of its commitment to keep the company running.

“No worker will be thrown under the bus. With the plan we have for the company, we may even end up employing more,” a Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr George Mireku Duker, assured.

The minister said this when he led a government delegation on a fact-finding mission to the company at Awaso.

The visit was necessitated by recent agitation by the workers over fear of losing their jobs following a decision by the strategic investor of the GBC, the Bosai Minerals Group from China, to sell its stake and pack out.

The delegation to Awaso included the Western North Regional Minister, Mr Richard Obeng; the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Minerals Commission, Mr Martin Kwaku Ayisi; the CEO of the Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Company (GIADEC), Mr Michael Ansah, and the Western North Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) Mr Ernest Akrasi Kirk Mensah.

The delegation held a closed-door meeting with leaders of the workers.

The Bosai Minerals Group, which has an 80 per cent stake in the company, has written to the government about its intention to sell its shares, and per the agreement between the two, the government must respond by the end of August this year.

Mr Duker said the government was considering all options to protect the interest of the workers, adding that whatever decision was taken would be in the supreme interest of the country.

“If, in the end, we feel it will not be in the interest of the taxpayer for the government to run the company, we will obviously offload it to a third party,” he said.

According to the minister, discussions were still ongoing with the strategic investor, adding that in the event the investor had to pack out, the government would ensure that it fulfilled all the conditions under the law.

Concerns

The major concern raised by the workers was the payment of severance packages when the strategic investor packed out.

The GBC Branch Secretary of the Ghana Mine Workers Union (GMWU), Mr Richard Ayiehu, explained that the workers were demanding a severance package because the company was set to go into a development stage when the lifespan of the current mine site ends in six months’ time.

He appealed to the government to ensure that the strategic investor paid severance packages to the workers before leaving.

Rationale for pulling out 

The Bosai Minerals Group said it had decided to pull out of the country over what it described as a deliberate attempt by government agencies, spearheaded by GIADEC, not to have the GBC’s mining lease, which expires on January 9, 2022, renewed.

The General Manager of the GBC, Mr J. K. Fang, said the company applied for a renewal of its mining lease in January 2020, but as of now the application was still pending.

According to him, they had managed the GBC very well, taking it from a loss-making company to a profit stage.

He refuted assertions by GIADEC that the company only made profits in 2019 and 2020.

“Apart from 2019 and 2020, Bosai ensured that the GBC also made profits in 2015 and 2017 and had consistently been reducing the $11 million loss it was making when the strategic investor took over in 2010,”  Mr Fang added.

First discovered in the country by Sir Albert Kitson in 1914, bauxite is an ore and main source of aluminum.

Although the British Aluminium Company gave approval for the mining of bauxite at Awaso in the then Western Region in 1928, exploration and mining works started only in the 1940s.

The GBC has been working on the mining site at since 1941. The site is said to have enough reserves to last more than three decades.

In 2009, the Bosai Group successfully acquired the GBC from the world mining giant, Rio Tinto.