Business News of 2013-12-04

‘Stop buying waste from illegal operators’

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resource has asked Prestea Sankofa Gold Limited to stop purchasing mine waste from illegal miners in the Western Region.

Prestea Sankofa Gold claims it has a technology that could be used to extract more gold from the ore after the illegal miners have used their low know-how to extract the mineral.

According to them, the illegal operators are only able to extract less than 30 per cent of gold and the waste material later sold to Prestea Sankofa Gold for further extraction of gold from the ore.

When contacted, officials of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), owners of Prestea Sankofa Gold, confirmed that they were allowed to buy from bigger firms and that they also bought from small-scale operators. The operators, however, said their waste was from illegal operations.

Those acts by the Prestea Sankofa Gold, a subsidiary of GNPC, according to the Technical Director of Mines at the ministry, Mr Simon Adugbire Atebiya, are illegal and contrary to the factors considered before the issuance of a permit to the company.

Speaking to a group of journalists on a course at the World Bank office in Accra, he said their operation was illegal and that it had come to the notice of the ministry and they were investigating.

“The proposal by the company to extract more from the waste was good, because they claimed the company had the technology to extract from the waste at a profit,” he said.

He blamed the surge in the illegal activities in the country to the fact that there was a ready market for waste and that the assemblies had failed to exercise their authority to ensure the right thing was done.

Mr Atebiya said before giving authorisation to an operator, there was a road map for the operator to follow.

Therefore, if the company failed to follow the rules,the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies had to stop them.

“I must say that the district assemblies did not know the amount of power at their disposal and therefore, allow these illegalities to flourish in their localities with impunity,” he said.

The director of mines said the mandate of Sankofa Gold was to buy from authorised mining companies, but it realised it would make more money from sourcing its waste from the illegal miners who did not have the capacity to extract more than 30 per cent from the ore.

When the Daily Graphic visited the northern part of the Western Region namely Tarkwa, Prestea, Bogoso, Jakpah, Nananko Wassa-Akrpong, Bawdie, where these illegal activities are on the surge, the operators said the material was not waste and that Sankofa Gold would buy it.

One of the operators at Bawdie, who gave his name as Kweku Yaw, said they the operators did not have the technology to extract enough gold from the waste after going through the process.

“Therefore, Sankofa Gold comes in and buys what we generate as waste at the cost that is even higher than what we make from the little we extract,” he said.

“I sold one heap at my site for GH¢150,000 to Sankofa Gold, and others could even be sold at a higher price depending on the quantity,” he said.

Asked if he knew it was illegal to mine and sell without license, he responded in the affirmative saying, “but I can tell you that the district assemblies, some leaders in the communities always get their share of the money we get from our dealings with the company,” he said.

Yaw said initially they faked the licence, but the company didn’t care. “They just buy I don’t have a licence but they buy”.

The officials of the Minerals Commission also confirmed the sale of the waste to Prestea Sankofa but were yet to come up with a decision on that.

Prestea Sankofa Gold Limited is a subsidiary gold mine of GNPC which was incorporated in 1994 as a joint venture between SAMAX Gold Resource and GNPC.

The company, as the name implies in Ghanaian parlance “Sankofa” – go back for it, was set out to extract gold from tailings and low grade “waste” from over 100 years of mining activities at Prestea.

The technology has attracted a lot of interest in the industry since it is currently doing well.

In 1998, SAMAX ceded its interest to GNPC and as a result, GNPC now owns 90 per cent of the shares in the company with the government of Ghana taking the remaining 10 per cent.

GNPC is evaluating the potential of the company with the aim of selling it out. This is in response to government’s desire to see GNPC focus on petroleum exploration and production activities only.