Minister calls for transparency in mining sector

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Mr Ato Hope, Operations & Productions Manager, Asap Vasa Company Limited, explaining a point to Mr Alhaji Inusah Fuseini (left), Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, during a visit to the company's refinery in Accra.  Picture: EMMANUEL BAAHThe Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Fuseini Inusah, has cast doubt over the figures on gold production that the government receives from mining companies.

According to him, transparency in the mining sector was very important, adding that it was time the government established an independent means of verifying the figures provided by the mining companies.

In that regard, he said it was necessary to build the capacity of regulators to determine independently the volume of gold produced by the mining companies.

He also stated that for tax purposes, it was necessary to find a means of determining the purity level of the gold that left the country.

The minister was responding to questions from the media during a tour of Asap Vasa, a wholly Ghanaian owned gold refinery in Accra. Incorporated in August, 2004, the company started operations from its Dansoman-Mataheko base in February, 2007, after various regulatory bodies, including the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), had satisfied themselves about the efficacy of the electrolytic mode of refining raw gold to 24 karat (99.99 per cent pure).

With a capacity to refine 100 kilogrammes of gold per day, the company last year refined 45,000 ounces. This year’s operations have seen a significant leap with some 60,000 ounces of gold being already refined.

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In 2011, the company exported 10,173 ounces of gold, against 17,133 ounces in 2010, and has its feet firmly planted in the local and international markets.

Alhaji Inusah described the performance of the company as encouraging.

The minister said the government was considering a policy shift to ensure that more refineries were built in Ghana.

“The colonial way of extracting and exporting must be brought to an end to ensure that the country fully benefited from its minerals,” he said.

He said the company had proved that “it is possible for Ghanaians to come together and establish businesses which will flourish.  We do not frown on joint partnership agreements; what we do not want is people coming into this country and taking our laws for granted”.

Alhaji Inusah said the government would continue to rid the country off illegal galamsey operations to ensure that the state benefitted from the small-scale mining sector.

The Board Chairman of Asap Vasa, Mr David Abbey, urged the government to set aside a quota of gold produced in the country to feed the refinery so that it would always operate at full capacity.

The CEO of the company, Mr Henry Vroom Parker, said in spite of the volatile nature of the gold business, the company had not been affected because it had hedged its prices.

By Seth J. Bokpe/Daily Graphic/Ghana