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Business News Wed, 28 Jan 2004

Savannah Cement Company given ultimatum

Accra, Jan. 28, GNA- The Savannah Cement Company Limited has been given up to the middle of February this year to start the Buipe Limestone Project.

Failure to comply with the directive would result in the revocation of the licence for other investors to be considered.

Mrs Cecilia Bannerman, the Minister of Mines who announced this in Parliament on Wednesday, said this follows the inability of the company to mobilise funds and make progress with its previous partners to undertake the project.

The Minister was in the house to answer a question that stood in the name of Alhaji Seidu Amadu, NDC-Yapei-Kusawgu as to when the Buipe Project would be reactivated.

Mrs Bannerman said " a feasibility report released in 1995, established the suitability of the Buipe Limestone deposit for the manufacture of clinker and Portland cement subject to the upgrading by the addition of high grade limestone." "Government has been looking for an investor with the requisite financial, technical and managerial capabilities to undertake the project."

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"In 2000, the Ministry of Trade and Industries, the promoters of the project, recommended Savannah Cement Company Limited for the grant of a mining lease to enable the company to undertake the project," she said.

The Minister said consequently, the Savannah Company was on June 2000, granted a 30-year mining lease to enable them to implement the project but the company after failure to make progress with previous partners, was still looking around for funds.

She said although the company registered the project with UNIDO and the Ghana Investment Promotion Council's (HGIPC) Industrial and Investment and technology Project Profile, for eventual matching with interested partners last year, this had yielded no results. Mrs Hannah Tetteh-Kpodar, NDC-Awutu Senya wanted to find out what the Ministry would do in the event that the company failed to attract suitable investors. The Minister said they would go ahead to bring in other investors.

Alhaji Mumuni Abudu Seidu, NDC-Wa Central, suggested that the Buipe project be made part of the President's Special Initiative (PSI) since it had potentials. The Minister said she would bring the matter to the President.

Prof. Kasim Kasanga, the Minister of Environment and Science, has meanwhile told Parliament that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has directed the Bonte Gold Mines Limited (BGML) in the Ashanti Region to submit a "comprehensive cost reclamation plan by March 31, this year."

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This follows reports that the operations of the company have resulted in the creation of pits with stagnant waters, a number of slime and tailing dams and waste material.

Prof Kasanga was answering a question from Mr. Samuel Buor-Karikari, NPP-Amansie West as to what the Ministry was doing to ensure that the ponds in the mining in areas such as Akataniase, Mpatuoam and Bonteso were reclaimed and re-afforested since the ponds were claiming human lives and serving as breeding rounds for mosquitoes. The Minister said: "BGML has in the past reneged on its responsibility in terms of reclamation works. These negative practices by BGML have resulted in land degradation, public health and safety risk and increase in mosquito transmitted illnesses."

He said the company's reclamation liability as contained in the cost reclamation plan of July 2001," is estimated at 1,264,535.00. US dollars. However, as at the end of September 2003, only an amount of 38,000.00 US dollars had been posted. The EPA has held discussions on the inadequacy of the estimates vis a vis the practical reclamation of the back log."

Prof. Kasanga said the EPA has taken measures to ensure that BGML fulfilled its legal obligations by the stipulated deadlines. It has also been directed to fence all pits, which the company has complied with. "The Company continues to submit monthly monitoring returns on surface water quality taken weekly for evaluation," he added. Mr. Bour-Karikari asked what the Ministry was going to do should the company refuse to comply with the reclamation orders but the Minister said all legal avenues would be explored to ensure that the company did what was right.

The MP again wanted to find out what compensation package was available for people in the area who may have suffered from some of the negative practices of the company but the Minister said the Ministry would work something out once such a case was brought before its notice.

Source: GNA