This week Africa Business Communities brings you this interview with Joyce Rosalind Aryee, former CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Mines.
She talks about the mining sector and the significant contributions to Ghana’s economy, the need for further diversification of the sector.
The Chamber represents the collective interests of companies involved in mineral exploration, production and processing in Ghana.
Ms. Joyce Aryee is a former Minister of State in Ghana. She is also Management & Communication Consultant and a Professional Counselor.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of Salt & Light Ministries, a Christian, para-church organization in Ghana.
Tell us, what are some of the interesting investment opportunities that foreign investors can take advantage of?
“I have always believed that because of the kind of development we need to have we should be interested in minerals that don’t immediately strike a chord as important but are important because they lend themselves so readily into the development of the country. I believe one such industry is marble and limestone. Because construction, whether for roads or housing, requires stones and we have so much of them. I really believe that we can make a wonderful industry out of it. Italy for example, boasts a marble industry and people all over the world like Italian marble.
I think Ghana can follow the example of Italy. We can make the marble and lime stone industry a strong one that feeds the local economy and the export market. Some of the stones are so beautiful. This area unfortunately does not seem to be attracting investments because everybody is focusing on gold. The other one is that we have the kind of lime that can feed cement factories. We now have three cement factories but it has taken them a long time for them to use local lime to produce their cement. I think that as a country, we should be looking at areas where we can provide the necessary linkages. We also have a lot of kaolin and that has a great potential to feed into local industries like Unilever. But we are not spending enough time and energy promoting it. The other mineral is talc which is used in pharmaceuticals. We have local pharmaceutical companies who import talc. It’s such a shame that they have to import it. These are a few of the lesser-known minerals that I think we can really promote.”
In your opinion, how important is the backward integration you talked about and what will be the steps to achieve a more industrialised mining sector?
“With backward integration we need to ensure that everything that goes into mining can be sourced locally. For example, activated carbon, steel balls, tyres and chemicals such as cyanide should be sourced here. With explosives, we are already manufacturing them here. We import some chemicals and manufacture the explosives here. Human resource is also a wonderful backward integration but we are doing that quite well. If we want a viable mining industry we have to make sure that it is not just what we bring out of the ground, but that everything we need in order to extract the mineral from the ground can either be directly manufactured here or we can create the conditions to enable us manufacture them here.
For years, this has not happened in Ghana. Adding value downstream is also something we need to do. For example, bauxite translates into alumina and then translates into aluminium. So if we have bauxite the next thing to think about is turning it into alumina and then into aluminium ingots. The funny thing is that Ghana has the bauxite and the aluminium factory but we don’t have the alumina because those who started the factory had alumina from some other countries (Australia and Jamaica). Kaiser, which was running the aluminium factory, didn’t think it was necessary to develop Ghana’s alumina. The aluminium industry requires a lot of electricity. If we really want to downstream, power is absolutely critical. When it comes to manganese and iron, they translate into steel. Again, that also requires huge amounts of electricity. When it come to gold, which is what seems to attract a lot of attention, much of it is bullion and does not lend itself well into a downstream activity.
The best downstream activity for gold is jewellery and you don’t need that much gold to do jewellery. So I think that as a nation that does not produce as much as South Africa does, it is important to have medium scale gold refineries. We have two small scale refineries and I think there will soon be a medium scale refinery.
I’m looking forward to a day when we will have a gold street in Obuasi or Tarkwa where there will be goldsmiths plying their trade so that people will see how we do gold jewellery traditionally. One of the things people don’t understand is that if you are a miner it does not necessarily make you a refiner because the two are separate businesses. Sometimes people confuse setting up a refinery with a mining company. They ask why the mining companies have not set up refinery companies. Mining companies don’t have to do that because that is not their core business.”
The mining companies have a responsibility to support the communities from where they mine. How is that being done in Ghana?
“Within the communities where the mining companies operate, they try through their corporate social responsibility to provide social facilities such as hospitals and schools. There is also a spin off from the provision of electricity for their own work so the communities can also have access to electricity. In a lot of the mining areas, they have access to mobile phones, Internet facilities and soon. What is missing, in my opinion, is the government’s deliberate planning to make sure that the ripple effects are properly harnessed.
The nation must know why it is mining. I think a nation uses its resources for development. So if we want to promote mining then it should be because we are going to use it for development. And if we are going to use it for development then infrastructure is very important. The building of roads, railway lines, air strips – all that is important and because mining is capital intensive and brings in a lot of money, I think that if government used those mining areas to build good infrastructure, it would speed up the development of the country. A mining company won’t think of building an airstrip and even if it did it will be for its own use. Ashanti Goldfields, now Anglogold, built an airstrip in Obuasi but the government did not show interest and so when things became difficult they abandoned it.
If the government had collaborated with the mining company, the airstrip could have served the whole community. Sunyani is a town close to where Newmont is mining and if an airport is built in Sunyani, it will be viable because it will be a lot easier for Newmont staff to travel. I really think that there is the need for a lot of planning. That government must really consider using mining as a catalyst for development. That is what has happened in other countries and there is no reason why it should not happen here. A lot of Australia’s development was on the back of mining.
South Africa too has benefited from mining and created a development programme for the whole country. So we should do the same. We can’t just think of the revenue. It will not be enough. We have to think of all the linkages that are what will make it worthwhile. When we do the backward integration, we will create even more jobs for our people.”
The Chamber of Mines represents the mining companies in the country. What are the chamber’s priorities for this year?
“The short term priority is to make sure that our members are seen as good corporate citizens not only by name but by actions as well. That they are seen as companies that are very responsible environmentally, socially and as far as good governance is concerned. This is the first priority. The second priority is to continue to build a more harmonious community-mine relationship. That is very important because we need to see the mining companies and the mining communities as social partners working together and creating avenues for employment and wellbeing.”
Can you share with us some of the important projects?
“The chamber comprises member mining companies.The secretariat makes sure that what the members want is done. These priorities are what we believe the members need and they agree that those are the things that we should do. When it comes to projects, the companies have various projects in their communities. The most important thing is for the companies to make sure that they have the social license to do their work by making sure that they respect the people in the communities and making sure that they meet the needs of the communities as far as they can and work together with them to try and find development for the whole community.”
How do you think that British investors can help to achieve your goals?
“We haven’t had British companies in mining here for quite some time. Originally, it was the British who were doing the mining here and they left. I think from the perspective of finance, British investors can make finance available to mining companies in Ghana. Most of the companies operating here are listed on the London Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. I would like to see British companies working with Ghana to get involved in some of the things that the companies need like establishing joint partnerships with Ghanaians to produce activated carbons, steel balls, tyres, bolts and nuts which are very important to the mining sector. That way, we can build another face of industrialisation through the mining sector.”
The mining sector faces challenges such as Illegal mining and deforestation. How is the Chamber dealing with these challenges?
“As part of the environmental impact assessment, mines are supposed to back-fill and replant. So if there is any forest on the concession of a mining company they will have to restore it after mining. Deforestation is not something that is a major problem to the mining sector. However, illegal mining is a more serious problem because it is outside of our ability to do anything about. With deforestation, you can always start off another forest plantation. Illegal mining causes a lot of problems.
First, a lot of it is trespassing on the concessions given to the mining companies and that becomes a legal and security problem. Not only that. The methods for illegal mining cause a lot of environmental problems. They just dig anywhere they like and they use mercury and so on. In order to help resolve that we have access to money from a fund called BUSAC (Business Advocacy Fund). We will do some advocacy and see how we can help resolve that. We have taken a very proactive step to try and help resolve the problem. The law accepts small scale mining and so we need to deliberately promote small scale mining. Just as in the 1980s we went out of our way to promote foreign direct investment in mining, we should now promote small scale mining as a deliberate policy to get more Ghanaians involved in mining in order to create more jobs and minimise the illegality.
In order to do that, we need to provide Ghanaians with lands that have already been explored because exploration is very capital intensive and risky. If you give land to a Ghanaian and expect him to go through the risk of finding out whether or not there is gold, it will not be helpful. So we have to go out of our way to do some serious exploration and when we find gold, diamond or whatever resources, we will assign the land to Ghanaians in order to cut out the risk of finding the metal. This way, it will be a lot easier to regulate them for environmental protection, social investment and soon. It will be a lot better that way.”
You have served your country in various different capacities. You are a former Minister of Information and for Education and Youth. How did your background helped you in your role as the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Mines?
“As the CEO, I was the spokesperson for the industry and so my background as a communicator has been extremely helpful and my network of friends and colleagues has also been very helpful. The fact that I’ve worked in government before has also been helpful because it means that I can relate readily to people in government. I also used to work with the Environmental Protection Agency so I understand enough what environmental protection is about to be able to relate well with the people. I would say that the various jobs that I did have given me the outlook that help me decide on the things that are important for the industry. Being a believer has also been very helpful. You need the stability that will keep you going. If you are at peace with yourself and you know that no matter how terrible the storm is, it will pass away, you will survive it. This faith has also helped me a lot.”
What is your final message to our readers?
“Ghana is a wonderful place to do business and it is not only because of the democracy that we have. Neither is it entirely about how wonderful our people are in terms of hospitality. Rather, it is down to the fact that the people are well educated and skilled. So if you are an investor you don’t have to worry about finding the right people to work with. I think that is very important. Also, Ghanaians love challenges and so no matter how tough the challenge is a Ghanaian would want to find a solution to it. Investors should not only be interested in gold, there are many other minerals here that will interest them.”
Culled from A report by www.upper-reach.com
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