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AMN - Ghana’s Chamber of Mines takes the lead – comment by Yolanda Torrisi

Yol headshot May 2011

Ghana’s Chamber of Mines is taking a responsible approach to ensuring the future of mining in the West African country by encouraging miners to adopt sustainable environmental management, innovative technology and local involvement. All mining companies operating through the continent would do well to heed this advice for the benefit of the industry and all stakeholders.

Chamber president Eric Asubonteng said striving for operation efficiency at mines would amount to nothing if business processes were not integrated with sustainable practices that focused on strict adherence to environmental and social regulations and guidelines.

During the chamber’s recent inaugural environmental, technical and social affairs conference, which was part of the chamber’s 90th anniversary celebrations, the president said that although profit was the core of mining operations, people and environmental sustainability could not be wished away in the mining industry and responsible mining, could not be considered as an after-thought, adding that, health and safety was also crucial in their operations.

He stated that mining could only continue to play its role as a catalyst for Ghana’s national development if the players in the industry strengthened their systems and practised to make the desired impact on society.

Asubonteng wishes were backed up by University of Ghana’s Professor Chris Gordon, of the Institute for Environmental and Sanitation Studies, who said that mining companies needed to generate effective environmental management plans to achieve a responsible mining. He urged companies to be proactive rather than reactive when maintaining the integrity of the environment.

Chamber CEO Suleman Koney also told delegates that the industry could not wish innovation and technology away in their operations and that it was the responsibility of the technical committee to ensure that the chamber and its affiliate members were up to the speed in their adoption and application of innovation and technology in their operations.

The Chamber of Mines is also continuing to encourage the use of locally sourced inputs by the country’s mining industry. Although there is no legislation to enforce this, during the last decade and particularly the last three or four years, local content has been increasing dramatically, propelled by deliberate affirmative action in this direction by the chamber as an institution, its members, various stakeholder institutions and government itself.

Key to this progress has been the establishment of an online portal by the chamber12 months ago to promote its local content objectives by announcing the supply needs of its members which are available to local suppliers.

The chamber’s immediate past president, Kwame Addo-Kufuor, said: “While this is not an end in itself, it is an essential means to whip up public interest in the sector. It is also an opportunity to work with government to stimulate an integrated mining industry that will ensure that greater value from the industry remains in-country to increase local revenue generation, job opportunities and national development.”

Notably, last year the chamber’s members achieved 73 per cent of its target for sourcing inputs locally, and following the establishment of the portal, they will get significantly closer to fully meeting the even higher targets set in this regard for 2018.

Mining companies now spend over one billion dollars a year on purchases of locally sourced products and services, excluding diesel and power and local spending is growing by the year.

While there are still challenges facing the industry in Ghana, including structural weaknesses, too many middle players in the supply chain, poor infrastructure, lack of political consensus on how to strengthen links with mining, too much bureaucracy in the business environment, and the need for a more effective and efficient industrial sector, the chamber is to be commended for its endeavours.

- Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent. Contact: yolanda@yolandatorrisi.com