Local miners need more incentives - Sam Jonah
A former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AngloGold Ashanti and statesman, Sir Sam Jonah, has called on the government to provide incentives that would encourage more Ghanaians to venture into mining.
At the 15th Congregation of the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), he said after many decades of mining, it was a blot on the nation that there was no significant ownership in the big mining firms in the country.
“I have consistently bemoaned the absence of a meaningful ownership stake in the ownership of our mines.
Sixty-six years after independence, sadly the situation has not changed much,” he said.
The ceremony at the university campus in Tarkwa attracted many dignitaries, including the Western Regional Minister, Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah; a Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and Member of Parliament for Tarkwa Nsuaem, George Mireku Duker; former Chairman of the University Council, former Vice-Chancellors of UMaT, Vice-Chancellors from other universities, the Executive Secretary of Vice-Chancellors Ghana, Dr Sena Kpeglo-Freiku, managers and executives of mining and allied companies, representatives of the Tarkwa Municipal Assembly, chiefs, families and friends of the graduates.
Sir Sam said empowering Ghanaians to be more involved in mining was the best way to ensure that the country derived the maximum benefits of such natural resources.
He said in the context of rising resource nationalism with local ownership of mines being pursued through various schemes such as free carried interest, the government should offer more targeted and favourable incentives to Ghanaians who ventured into the highly risky industry.
“This is more than a moral imperative.
Empowering Ghanaians to be active participants in the mining industry is the surest way to grow the much-needed economic linkages from the mining industry,” Sir Sam stated.
“I dare say this will avoid the repetition of the terrible mistakes we made in the past in the development of our natural resources,” he added.
In spite of the difficulties, Sir Sam, who is also the Executive Chairman of investment firm, Jonah Capital, said all was not lost.
He praised Engineers and Planners, a company owned by Ibrahim Mahama, for venturing into a highly risky venture such as mining
“The acquisition of the Azuma project by Engineers and Planners, arguably the most dynamic Ghanaian company on the current mining scene, is undoubtedly one of the most exciting developments in our industry,” he said.
Sir Sam was also full of praise for the country and other African countries for taking bold initiatives in having more control over their natural resources.
He said the new phenomenon, “resource nationalism”, was being pursued by advanced economies and said it would help African countries have a fair share of the benefits of such natural resources.
Dr Jonah mentioned the initiative by some African countries to ban exportation of raw mineral ores in order to encourage value addition as an example of resource nationalism”.
“This is consistent with the African Mining Vision’s key tenet of domestic value addition to minerals before exporting.
Sir Sam said the decision by the government to use the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) as a vehicle to invest in mining operations was highly commendable.
“The decision by MIIF to take an equity position in Atlantic Lithium is a laudable step and I dare say that more should be done in this regard”, he said.
“I am also delighted to note that our nationals are increasingly taking the risks in investing in mineral exploration and project development,” Dr Jonah added.
Localisation, empowering of nationals
Dr Jonah said during his time as CEO of Ashanti Goldfields Company, now AGA, the localisation of the mines, both in terms of employment and local procurement, was a deliberate policy and strategic footprint of the company.
He said before he took over, the company employed 250 expatriates; however, at the time of the merger with AngloGold in 2003, there was only a handful.
“This was made possible because of significant investments we made in the development of our human capital,” Sir Sam stated.
Also to enhance local content in the operation, he said, the company made a deliberate policy to buy as much as possible from local suppliers and also actively encouraged the establishment at the mines for the production of mine supplies.
“As a further example, we encouraged and actively supported the manufacture of grinding media in Ghana.
The policy outcomes were most encouraging.
Factories to produce explosives, lime, grinding media and many other commodities sprang up in Obuasi, Takoradi and elsewhere.
This is a legacy that we are very proud of and must not be allowed to be eroded,” he stated.
Sir Sam expressed satisfaction that now there were senior employees of Ashanti, mostly former graduates of UMaT occupying senior management positions at mines all over the world, saying “it is a legacy I am hugely proud of and all of us must do whatever it takes to build on it.”
Sir Sam said while there was the need to empower Ghanaians to actively partake in mining, it was imperative that such involvement would be legal and not illegal mining or what is popularly known as galamsey.
He described galamsey as an existential threat in the mining industry and the country at large.
“The activities of galamsey mining have caused an unbearable and unacceptable level of environmental damage and associated social impacts such as child labour, teenage pregnancy and school dropout rates,” he said.
He called on UMaT to use its expertise to fashion strategies “in cleaning the almost irreparable damage the menace has created”.
Advice to students
Dr Jonah, who was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree by UMaT, advised the graduating students to go into the future with the values acquired during their studies and ensure that they exhibited exemplary traits in all their endeavours.
“The world awaits your unique contributions, and I have no doubt that each one of you will leave an indelible mark,” he said.
The Vice-Chancellor of UMaT, Professor Richard Kwasi Amankwah, outlined the school’s efforts at supporting responsible mining.
He said in the year under review, the university observed the Sustainable Small-scale Mining Awareness Day on June 2 by engaging the Akoon Community Mine to create awareness of the need to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly methods in artisanal and small-scale mining.
To promote skills development in mineral-rich communities, the university teamed up with the Bibiani Community to operationalise the Bibiani Community School to build the capacity and prepare community members to take up professional jobs in the mining and minerals industry.
n addition to that, Prof. Amankwah said the university organised its annual innovation and career fair to promote innovation among the students.
As part of the university’s corporate social responsibility, he added that UMaT would develop and donate two motorised wheelchairs from the fair to the Tarkwa Municipal Hospital in due course.
The Overall Best Graduating Student award went to Abdul-Rahman Ishaak; the Victoria E. Frempong’s Memorial Award for the Best Graduating Female Student went to Maame Boaduwaa Kwakye-Tannor, with Arch Dr Ekow Sam’s Award for the most disciplined graduating student going to Abdullah Bello Muhammed.
The Academic and Student Affairs Award for best international male graduating student was picked up by Cherif Bah, the best international female graduating student went to Rokia Dembélé, the Prof. Daniel Mireku-Gyimah Award for Best Mining postgraduate student was won by Richard Gyebuni, while the GRASAG Award for Best Postgraduate Student went to Emmanuel Seckley.
For staff, the Best Worker award, Senior Staff, went to Hermas Abaah Akolgo, while the Junior Staff category went to Roland Blisette.