General Secretary of the Mineworkers Union (GMWU), Prince William Ankrah, has commended government for heeding the union’s call to reconsider its decision on the income tax threshold – which was scaled up at this year’s mid-year budget review.
He observed that this change in policy direction is a huge respite to many workers whose income and expenditure patterns got disrupted, allowing them to get their financial plans back on track.
Ankrah also observed that given the critical role tax revenue plays in the economy, the union urges government to expand the tax net by devising other strategies to rope more taxpayers into the tax net. In this regard, the union commends government for the rigorous enforcement of the Tax Identification Number (TIN), National ID Card, and implementation of the tax stamp – all of which are geared toward expanding the tax net.
Another important issue is the announcement by government of lifting the ban on small-scale mining, the GMWU General Secretary stated.
“The union has always recognised the importance of small-scale mining in both the national and local economies, particularly in mining communities by way of livelihoods sustenance, employment creation etc. However, we have also not forgotten the colossal damage that unbridled and unregulated small-scale and illegal mining inflicted and continues to inflict on the environment.”
This notwithstanding, the union would like to commend government for the ban and sustained fight against illegal mining; and, also, for the new benchmarks it has established as a prerequisite for engaging in small scale-mining going forward.
The GS, speaking at the GMWU NEC meeting of December 12 and 13 in Accra, said equally worrying is the ballooning cost of operations for some of the companies due to deteriorating infrastructure in most of the mining communities.
“At the centre of this concern are mostly the haulage companies (Ghana Bauxite & Manganese Companies) which have had their operations challenged due to the difficulty in hauling production through long and winding bumpy roads because of the absence of a rail network. This infrastructure deficit applies not only to companies in the mines, but is widespread across the local economies of the mining enclaves – spreading its concomitant effects on not only mining companies but other sectors as well.”
On the state of the industry, the GS said whereas gold prices (a critical driver to the industry’s activities) began the year at US$1312.05/oz in January, according to kitco.com, it tumbled to US$1219.00/oz by August, and nosedived to US$1189.35/oz by October – but appears to have stabilised at around US$1235.90/oz in December.
“The gold price, together with other industry factors, spurred growth in some aspects of the industry – particularly exploration and new projects; but the same cannot be said about cost pressures and regulatory challenges the industry has had to grapple with.”
Another worrying observation by the union, Ankrah stated, is the seeming regulatory lapses/gaps regarding the enforcement of standard health and safety regulations/policies in the small to medium-scale mining operations in the country, particularly concessions operated by Chinese investors.
“The union has observed with grave concern instances when workers in predominantly Chinese companies work under hazardous and unsafe conditions that put both their lives and the environment under serious threat. One wonders how miners, in this day and age, work in pits, plant, workshops etc. in active mining operations without proper personal protective clothing, safety boots, gloves, nose-masks etc. – violating the Minerals Commission’s Health and Safety Regulations and the Labour Act. Sadly, however, these serious infractions happen in areas where regulators have jurisdiction and must ensure that standards are maintained or enforced.”