The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Minerals Commission and Environmental Protection Agency seem not to have been clever enough, for the past 15 months, to decipher the grand scheme of GSR, FGR and Blue International Holdings.
This scheme by the foreign companies aimed to rid Ghana of our gold revenues and leave behind the debt of environmental remediation costs, while profiting enormously from the nation’s gold resources.
These government institutions will surely fail woefully if these predictions from me as a local citizen in the Wassa community come to pass while they sit in Accra with all the resources and are yet unable to avert this occurrence that will leave the Wassa communities poorer and with devastating environmental impacts.
I am Kwame Tawiah Ansah, a loyal citizen of the Wassa Community and an advocate for the rights of my people.
We recall a publication on November 9, 2020 (Sale of Bogoso-Prestea Mine: Golden Star Resources’ plan to revert US$53m rehabilitation liability to gov’t – The Business & Financial Times (thebftonline.com) and that of March 24, 2021 (BOGOSO PRESTEA MINE SOON TO BE IN CRISIS – GOVERNMENT MUST INTERVENE | KINGDOM FM ONLINE) wherein the Community in Prestea Bogoso pleaded and petitioned for government to intervene in the Bogoso Prestea Mine sale – due to inherent risks the deal posed to Ghanaian employees and the micro-economy of Prestea Huni-Valley Municipality.
The mining community stated that the sale was bizarre and the new owner – Future Global Resources (FGR) which is a non-listed, privately owned 11-month old mining company with no mining history and background – is a special purpose vehicle created for a dubious scheme by Golden Star Resources (GSR).
The community reiterated that FGR is not in for the investment and expansion of the mine; and till today, indeed, FGR and Blue International have not invested a single dollar in the mine. Indeed, FGR can liquidate because of any little business stress without losing anything.
The community further exposed the grand scheme of GSR and FGR-Blue which makes Ghanaians worse-off and profits foreigners enormously, expecting government to initiate a due diligence process to rectify and avert the imminent risk to employees and the community.
Government, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Minerals Commission and the EPA seem not to have taken any tangible steps to correct this process – and as at today, over 120 Ghanaian mine workers have lost their jobs, with the mine being in serious debt to contractors and land remediation debt of over US$53million still pending.
There were even threats of dismissal for an additional 200 workers, which led to an almost one-week demonstration of workers in November 2021. This threat is still imminent to these Ghanaian workers, as the foreign operator has no stated intent to expand the mine.
The actual cause of these occurrences is strongly attributed to FGR and Blue International Holdings’ (current controllers of Bogoso Prestea Mine) inability to invest in development and expansion of the mine as predicted, and hence will lay-off Ghanaian workers and pay themselves as foreigners while using Ghanaian resources.
For 15 months now, since FGR and Blue International took over in October 2020, the foreigners have not invested a single dollar in mine development and expansion – contrary to mining investment policies and protocols of Ghana, yet their permits for operating have expired several times and been renewed by the Minerals Commission and the EPA.
It is obvious that the financial gain and interest of leadership in these government institutions are more important to them than the masses who are losing their jobs, and the mine’s collapse.
People who are trusted with institutional mandates tend to choose their individual private gain over the mass of Ghanaian workers, instead of protecting workers and the mining industry from dubious actions of foreign business operators like GSR, FGR and Blue International Holdings.
The Grand Scheme – Profit Maximisation at the expense of Mine Development
GSR acquired the Bogoso Prestea Mine in 1999. In 2002, the Bogoso Mine made good profit, invested in Ghana and purchased the Satellite Gold Mine at Wassa Akyempim – which was renamed Wexford and later Golden Star Wassa Limited.
GSR then operated these two major mines (Wassa Mine and Bogoso Mine) in Ghana. The two mines operated concurrently with support to each other in the areas of finance and labour. During the third quarter of 2018, LaMancha Investment Group bought majority shares (30%) and became the major shareholder of GSR at a time when Bogoso Prestea Mine was struggling to get a positive cash flow, while its sister Wassa Mine was making a good profit and supporting the Bogoso Prestea operations.
On the record, Bogoso Prestea Mine had supported Wassa Mine between 2014-2016 when it was in negative cash flow until 2018 when the Wassa production experienced positive cash flow. In 2019, LaMancha appointed the then CEO of LaMancha, Mr. Andrew Wray, as CEO of GSR. On assuming office as CEO of GSR, Mr. Andrew Wray culled the old GSR executive team and replaced them with a new team – predominantly from the LaMancha group. About 80% of all investment announcements made after the third quarter of 2018 by GSR were used to repackage the Wassa Mine.
Six months after assuming office, Mr. Andrew Wray, the CEO, indicated that the Bogoso Prestea Mine was on a negative cash flow and hence impacting the entire GSR business cash flow; meanwhile, the same CEO directed most capital investments to the Wassa Mine. On 27th July 2020, and about two years after LaMancha took over the control of GSR, the CEO announced the preconceived ultimate pre-acquisition plan for the sale of Bogoso Prestea Mine – and to no other mining firm but a fly-by-night company formed 8-months prior with no mining experience anywhere in the world.
FGR took over the Bogoso Prestea operations on October 1, 2020, and for the past 15 months has not declared their investment plans or committed any money for expansion of the operations, but have rather been shrinking the operation. Meanwhile, various foreigners and foreign executives on the ticket of FGR – and now Blue International Holdings – have been (and continue to be) paid over the past 15 months from gold proceeds from the Mine. During the last 15 months, the company’s debts to local contractors and businesses appear to have continued increasing.
For example, we have observed in the community a cessation of fuel trucks delivering fuel to the company, and an increase in complaints of non-payment for services rendered by many local businesses and contractors. FGR and Blue International are evidently therefore not paying down any debts they inherited after taking control of the mine. It is certain these are not people who are here for our good.
LaMancha, controller of GSR, has always had short-term dubious business plans (maximum of 3 years) aimed at profiting enormously at the expense of countries in which they operate here in Africa. Mining investments in Ghana have been known to be on long-term basis, and aimed at developing and expanding mining operations.
The business style of LaMancha was initially not noticed by the Minerals Commission, which can be pardoned. However, the unfolding events by LaMancha since they came to Ghana, and hence GSR, during the past three years – for which various alerts were given to government and the mining sector institutions – required an intervention that the institutions failed to make.
LaMancha came to Ghana to take control of the GSR group in 2018 with US$127million, promising to support and propel GSR’s ambition of becoming a leading African gold producer (La Mancha enters into strategic partnership with Africa’s Golden Star with US$127million investment (miningglobal.com). About 80% of the investment was used to repackage the Wassa Operations, which was already making profit, with no significant development and expansion of the Bogoso/Prestea Mine. Two years after taking controllership of GSR, LaMancha sells the Bogoso/Prestea Asset to Future Global Resources, which was then 8 months old and had no prior experience in mining, in a bizarre manner through a supposed staged payment:
- US$5million of cash is payable on the earliest (i) date at which FGR puts in place a new reclamation bond with the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana, or (ii) March 30, 2021;
- US$10million of cash is payable on July 31, 2021;
- Approximately US$4million of cash for the net working capital adjusted balancing payment is payable on July 31, 2021; and
- US$15million of cash is payable on July 31, 2023.
- Contingent payment of US$20 to US$40million upon the mining of refractory ore
None of these staged payments has ever been fulfilled by FGR and Blue International to GSR, yet FGR continues to operate with no pressure from GSR. Meanwhile, government institutions continue granting permit extensions for FGR to operate when FGR has shown no intent of investing in the mine’s future.
A year after the Bogoso Prestea Mine was sold, GSR announced the sale of Wassa Mine for a whopping US$470million to another foreign company – and thus have literally made away with US$343million within 3 years without investing in the progress of Ghanaian mines. (Golden Star agrees US$470m deal to sell its operations to Chifeng Jilong (thebftonline.com).
This sale, by the way, is a complete flip of public assurances to the Ghanaian public given by Mr. Andrew Wray as CEO in several interviews with the media that GSR was here to stay and would never sell to another entity. Our institutions watched, and by their acts have supported the draining of the country’s precious resources and impoverishment of Ghanaian workers through lay-offs.
It is important for readers to note that this position is not against foreign investors coming into our mining sector. Even though they are not perfect, companies like Goldfields, Newmont and AngloGold have been with us in Ghana for ages – and have made significant contributions to local communities and the country’s economy.
What we will not tolerate, however, is a group of supposed investors who come into our country, make promises of investing in our mineral and natural resources sector, use the promises to buy our support, and then turn around to use some of our own people to help them cut corners – and then leave the people in our communities and the country worse-off.
If anyone has done an economic impact assessment on a per-ounce of gold extracted basis, it would be self-evident that the net benefit to the country stemming from the day we welcomed GSR, FGR and Blue International into our country has been negative. Let’s be realistic: even companies investing in the renewable resource sectors of our country, such as those in agribusiness, are investing millions in the country and expanding to employ more Ghanaians.
The recent commissioning of the expanded processing facility of Cargill Limited in Tema by the president, for example, comes to mind. We certainly must have higher standards of investment impact for those participating in the non-renewable resources sector of Ghana. Medium- to large-scale mining in Ghana is not a business for neophytes. Even our artisanal and small-scale miners are employing the Ghanaian people and stimulating local economies.
Mining Sector Institutions Failed
The mining sector institutions – i.e., Minerals Commission, EPA and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources – seem to have failed woefully in this game plan; or peradventure the leadership have been compensated enough to gloss over this deal while the nation gets swindled by foreigners and the few jobs left in the country collapse, not forgetting the taxes and revenue government could have accrued had those operations been expanded and operated with long-term plans.
To date, and for 15 months now, no pragmatic effort has been seen from these institutions to arrest the situation. The government machinery intended to protect jobs is now rather superintending over job-losses and duping of the country by foreigners, because of possible individual benefit and private gains.
Gains from the GSR’s Dubious Scheme
FGR, following the takeover of Bogoso Prestea Mine, has made various investment promises to the Minerals Commission to revamp the Bogoso Prestea Mine – and yet has still not invested a penny on the mine having operated for over 15 months (FGR failed to invest even a ‘penny’ in Prestea-Bogoso mine; lacks funds — Minerals Commission | Business (classfmonline.com). They have however strategically structured the operations to be paying their foreign employees and directors, sponsor other projects in other countries in the disguise of Blue International Holdings Group Operations – and are now laying-off Ghanaian workers.
Their reason being that they do not intend to stay in Ghana, so there is no need to invest but rather maximise gains. In this grand scheme implemented by GSR under the watch of mining sector institutions, GSR makes a profit of US$343million within three years without developing and expanding any mine in Ghana – but rather by ditching the Bogoso Prestea Mine and packaging Wassa Mine for sale.
FGR, a special purpose vehicle formed by GSR, after one year of operation takes over Bogoso Prestea Mine, operates it without any investment for development and expansion, and abandons same when the time is due – with the reason that the mine is not profitable, thereby relinquishing all liabilities, debt to Ghanaian contractors/suppliers, and debt to government institutions to the state.
FGR and Blue International Holdings gain by paying their enlarged number of executives and directors at the group level, while Blue International Holdings specifically gains by using revenue from the gold mining operations to sponsor projects that are outside Ghana.
As Blue Holdings Group prepare for the financial close of the Bumbuna II Project in Sierra Leone, (https://blueinternational.com/news/bluegroup), overhead cost of executive’s remuneration will solely be borne by Bogoso Prestea mine operations – swelling the mine operations cost and presenting potential loss of Ghanaian jobs and attendant replacement with foreigners under the guise of organisational restructuring.
What is the gain in this grand scheme for Ghana? No gains, but loss of employment for citizens and debts which are into the millions of dollars transferred to local businesses and the state.
Sadly, the mining sector regulatory institutions have superintended all these transactions over the last 15 months while the Bogoso Prestea Mine is on the verge of collapse and the Wassa Mine has now also been sold. GSR, FGR and Blue International Holdings will soon leave the shores of Ghana to share their booty of over US$343million.
Bogoso Prestea Community Outcry
For how long should the Bogoso Prestea Community petition government while it turns a deaf ear to those petitions? In November 2020 and March 2021, I alerted government publicly of this deal by GSR and the threat to the Wassa community in terms of potential lay-off of workers and collapse of the mine, yet government did not act.
Today, this has cost over 120 Ghanaians their jobs and impoverished their families – to the extent that the company, FGR, even owes persons who have been laid-off their full entitlements in many cases. For how long will Ghanaians be enslaved on their own lands while foreigners are nourished from the gold resources?
I have analysed the occurrences, I have seen the happenings and can predict with certainty that Bogoso Prestea Mine will not see the end of 2022 if government institutions don’t act responsibly to ensure appropriate investment or investors for the mine.
Any calamity on the Bogoso Prestea Mine in 2022, and impoverishment of the Wassa Community, will be on the heads of the Minerals Commission, the EPA and the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources for their collective failure to act – perhaps due to their leadership’s individual gains at the expense of the masses.
The president requested all to be citizens, and the leadership of government institutions must demonstrate that same love for the country and not suck the blood of innocents by virtue of being in public offices.
#Save the Bogoso Prestea Mine, Act Now#.
- Hon Samuel A. Jinapor (Sector Minister),
- Martin Ayisi (CEO, Minerals Commission),
- Henry Kokofu (Executive Director, EPA).