The Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, has urged mining companies in the country to be mindful of the environmental concerns in the mining communities, especially those in their operational areas.
He asked them to provide alternative sources of livelihood for the communities where mining was no longer useful.
The Vice-President made the call at the opening of the seventh West African Mining and Power Exhibition and Conference (WAMPCO) in Accra yesterday.
The three-day exhibition and conference, which is taking place at the Accra International Conference Centre, has attracted mining concerns from all over the world which have displayed all kinds of mining-related equipment and technology for efficient mining.
Alhaji Mahama said in meeting their social responsibilities to the communities, the mining companies should use the district assembly system as a planning vehicle in order to avoid duplication in the provision of social services.
He said the prevailing favourable price of gold on the world market had heightened the activities of exploration and mining companies were committing significant resources into exploration, with the view to defining more deposits.
The Vice-President said mineral production, especially gold, had increased tremendously, making the sector the highest foreign exchange earner for the country.
He said since 2001, there had been a steady rise in the price of gold from $276.5 an ounce to $515.6 in December 2005, showing an increase of 46.4 per cent, increasing to $634 an ounce as of May 31, 2006.
He noted that the significant increases in the price of gold, together with favourable government policies, had culminated in the increased investment by mining giants such as Newmont of USA, Golden Star Resources, Gold Fields of South Africa, Rangold and Redback in the West African sub-region.
"Their wonderful performances have convinced the government to continue to partner the private sector to bring about more improvement in the country," he added.
"In view of this, we can take advantage of the increase in gold price when there is transparency and accountability over operating mines' payments and government's revenue and disbursement as advocated under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)," Alhaji Mahama said.
He stated that it was time to team up with the rest of the countries in the sub-region to initiate the process of adding value to the minerals produced in order to derive even more benefits from them.
The Vice-President said adding value to minerals in West Africa would help to integrate the mining sector with the rest of the local economy and that that linkage would generate more jobs for its people.
He said with the operationalisation of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) project in less than a year, aimed at generating natural gas supply in the sub-region, the mining and industrial sectors would enjoy reliable energy supply.
The Vice-President charged participants at the conference to discuss the preparations necessary to receive and utilise the power from the WAGP project before it arrived.
He said since the government believed that the private sector was the engine of growth, it would continue to support various private sector initiatives, such as the exhibition and conference being organised, to accelerate the progress being made in Ghana's socio-economic development efforts.
A former President of Ghana Chamber of Mines, Mr Kwamena Anaman, said in recent times the gold industry had progressed steadily, with various alternative livelihood programmes in host communities, while at the same time more creative measures had been pursued in corporate social responsibility initiatives.
He cited the $3 million sponsorship for the Black Stars by Gold Fields Ghana Limited, the $3 million malaria control programme by Anglogold Ashanti, the Ghana Manganese Company's support to the University of Mines and Technology at Tarkwa and the other forms of support to various entities by other mining firms as some of the good initiatives by the mining companies.
"From an industry which employed less than 16,000 people, as much as 13 per cent of all receipts of the Internal Revenue Service came from the mining sector," he disclosed.
Mr Anaman said those notable achievements notwithstanding, the mining sector was saddled with problems such as environment concerns and misrepresentations which needed to be addressed in order to usher in the next phase of mining in Ghana and the West African sub-region.
He said as a major player in the energy industry, the mining companies needed to constantly inform themselves of the relevant developments in the energy sector which could help in meeting the evolving and varied demands and expectations on account of the extraction nature of the industry.
"For instance, Obuasi alone pays between $450,000 and $500,000 on the average for electricity every month. In other words, one mine alone pays over $5 million every year for its power needs.