Recent revelation that foreign mining companies retain close to 100 per cent of their earnings should be a wake-up call to restore sanity in Ghana’s mining industry, Prince William Ankrah, General Secretary of the Ghana Mines Workers Union (GMWU) has stated.
He said “If today parliamentarians are hearing that mining firms repatriate 80 per cent of mining receipts, then it should be a wake-up call to all of us and a clear signal to cabinet ministers to sit up” in order to determine the real impact of mining on Ghana’s socio-economic development.
Mr Ankrah was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the matter which came up before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament, Monday.
Members of the committee expressed shock at the revelation that an average of 80% annual earnings were retained by mining firms in line with binding agreements passed by Parliament in 2003.
The Committee, headed by Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, therefore called for investigations into the percentage of earnings retained to establish the circumstances under which the contracts received parliamentary approval in a country desperate for foreign exchange cash to fund its development projects.
According to the GMWU General Secretary, "(Ghana) has come of age. If the intention of the policy was to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), we have come of age now and the time to do the right is now".
He said “Some mining companies even retain and repatriate 100 per cent of their earnings. Why should it be so?"
“Botswana experienced similar situation but took the bold step and instituted the right measures and today they are reaping from it. We need a progressive debate on the matter because we all know what impact the current situation is having on our economy, especially on our exchange rate".
During a recent National Executive Council meeting of the GMWU at Obuasi, Mr Ankrah lamented the extent to which government gives mining companies a lot of capital allowances, regretting that mining firms do not pay the appropriate taxes on them.
“They end up duping the country of revenue that it needs... Last year, around this time Ghana had only cashed in three point two billion dollars ($3.2 billion) from mining receipt. The figure for the same period this year is two point two billion dollars ($2.2 billion).
“No wonder we are out there looking for Eurobonds because if you don’t do that the country cannot run. So the GMWU leadership and entire membership are concerned about our dear country Ghana," he said.
Mr Ankrah noted that “Australia had cashed in big time on mining receipt and had made major in-roads with regard to jobs infrastructure and other related areas".
“The question we ask ourselves is what do we see here in Ghana’s mining communities, wretched infrastructure after one hundred years of mining?
“Ghana is indeed not at its best and the mining industry too is indeed not at its best. We need to have pragmatic engagement by all stakeholders in the industry so that we do not panic when the prices of god begins to fall.”
Moving forward, he said, the ownership structure of mining firms should be looked at again, insisting the current 10 to 20 per cent local ownership was not enough.
“We need to strengthen our geological survey department to make it more relevant to the mining industry and be able to carry out quality and reliable research to provide the needed data and information on our mining sector,” Mr Ankrah added.