The global gold industry, and by extension the mining industry, so far stands out as the utmost beneficiary of the COVID-19 global crisis, General Secretary of Ghana Mineworkers’ Union (GMWU), Abdul-Moomon Gbana has observed.
He said unlike other sectors which have been heavily hit since outbreak of the pandemic, gold since the beginning of last year has seen an unprecedented break-through in its price – as it soared above two thousand US dollars an ounce (US$2,000/oz) toward the tail-end of last year, and has maintained relative stability since the beginning of this year.
The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic has made gold’s relevance as a hedge even more apparent and accelerated its price performance.
“Following the colossal gains most mining companies made last year and the positive outlook demonstrated this year, we expect that mining companies will take strategic advantage of the price boom – and by extension increased margins from last year – to invest in modern infrastructure and expand existing ones,” Gbana reiterated.
This, the GMWU believes, is a substantial step toward the creation of decent and sustainable jobs, extending the life-of-mine for companies, increasing the sector’s contribution to the national purse through taxation and other statutory payments; as well as uplifting livelihoods of mining communities and modernizing the current deplorable mining community infrastructure.
In a speech read on his behalf by Jerry Andoh, Deputy General Secretary-GMWU at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Tarkwa, Mr. Gbana observed that the GRA and by extension the Ministry of Finance has not only consistently delayed the release of the Mineral Development Fund (MDF) contribution, but also reduced the quantum because of application of the Earmarked Funds Capping and Realignment Act 2017 (Act 947).
He noted that with this lopsided sharing model for the country’s mineral royalties, infrastructural development efforts of mining communities can never be achieved if nothing drastic is done about the current sharing model.
“Consequently, we renew our call for the current 20 percent share of annual mineral royalties allocated to the Mineral Development Fund to be increased to at least 50%.
“In addition, we expect that 50% of the revised 50% allocation to the MDF must go directly into mining community development, if indeed we are committed to the transformation of mining communities as was envisioned in the Mineral Development Fund Act,” he added.
The security situation within mining communities and mining companies in particular continues to be a major worry for the Union and many of its constituents, as the race for sanitization of the illegal mining space under the “Government Operation Halt Programme” rages on.
“This positive programme has however forced many of those displaced illegal miners into invading legally acquired mining concessions, which often times results in serious clashes with our valued members; thus putting them in harm’s way.”
For example, recently, two valued members in Protea Coin – Robert Coffie and Joshua Oppong – were attacked and shot, which led to Joshua losing one eye while Robert sustained multiple injuries at the Newmont Ahafo site.
Similarly, at the same Newmont Ahafo site, Daniel Owusu Sekyere and Matthew Nsoah – both members of the Union – were attacked with guns and cutlasses, which led to Daniel sustaining multiple fractures to one leg while Matthew sustained several cutlass wounds to the head.
“The Union is therefore happy to associate itself with government’s plan to roll-out a National Alternative Employment and Livelihood Programme for illegal small-scale miners affected by the activities of Operation Halt II – except to state that this initiative could be counterproductive if the jobs that are created out of this programme are not decent and sustainable.”
The Union also urges government through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to take immediate steps to provide complementary security for these mining companies, and by extension the sector.
National Chairman-GMWU, Mensah Kwarko Gyarkari, observed that miners have been cheated for far too long, particularly with regard to roads leading to the mines. He cited the Tarkwa station down to Takoradi and said: “One wonders whether Tarkwa has five mines situated there”.