Traditional goldsmiths in the manufacture of jewelleries within the Western Region are on the verge of extinction, due to their inability to access gold for their production.
They are compelled to buy gold at internationally competitive prices or rely on "galamsey" operators, many of whose operations are illegal.
Mr David Elemawusi Nibo, Western Regional Secretary of the Federation of Ghanaian Jewellers disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview at Takoradi on Tuesday.
He said their business which falls within the small and medium scale (SMEs) category, cannot access bank loans, due to the lack of collateral, and the survival of the industry depended on the initiative of the owner.
“Our businesses are on the verge of collapse due to our inability to sustain it due to the rising cost of gold and our inability to get a consistent source of gold, our major raw material.
Mr Nibo said another threat to the local goldsmith industry was the high patronage of cheap foreign rings, necklaces, ornaments and pendants “many of which are substandard as compared to what is manufactured in the country”.
Mr Nibo expressed the disappointment of the members of the federation at various government ministers, who have headed the ministry of mines for failing to fulfil the numerous promises they made to them.
“We feel cheated and abandoned without any hope of keeping our small scale business in operation” he said.
Mr Nibo suggested that a gold refinery should be established in the Western Region to enable small and medium scale goldsmiths have access to some quantities of gold at affordable prices.
“We cannot continue to travel to Accra and other parts of the country to buy gold, considering the risks and other dangers associated with travelling with such precious metals,” he stressed.
He suggested the establishment of a Western Regional Gold Village, where crafts made out of gold and other minerals could be displayed and for sale to anyone interested.
Mr Nibo said it was sad that though the country was described over several years as a Gold Coast, over 80 percent of the citizenry have not seen what gold looks like, thereby making dealers prey to the activities of fraudsters.
He called on Ghanaians to change their attitude and tastes for foreign goods and embrace locally manufactured goods and services in the country.
Dr Toni Aubynn, Corporate Affairs Manager of Goldfields Ghana Limited (GGL) in a re-action said the federation could purchase gold from the Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) to keep their businesses in operation.
He said one of the aims for legalising scale mining and the establishment of the PMMC, was to make gold available to local consumers and manufacturers of gold and diamond products.
Dr Aubynn however disagreed with the federation that they be assisted to buy gold at reduced prices and stressed that producers of gold will not accept to sell gold below the "par value" or the approved market price.
“Again selling gold or any such raw materials below the market price would not reflect the true production cost for either the company or the goldsmith in the country,” he added.
Dr Aubynn however suggested that some embedded taxes on gold by the PMMC could be reviewed so that gold prices will come down for domestic buyers and keep small and medium scale businesses (SMEs) in the industry functional.
“In the long run, I think this will require policy rather than the temporary magnanimity of any gold mining company,” he noted
He said sometime ago, GGL went into a gold loan arrangement with the College of Jewellery in Accra for a similar reason but the outcome was negative.
Mr John G. Koomson, Acting Western Regional Head of the National Board for Small Scale Businesses (NBSSI) said, previously the jewellers in the region purchased their gold from the Bank of Ghana (BOG) but did not know why they had stopped.
He pledged to meet the leadership and the BOG and re-activate the previous arrangements.
Mr Ahmed D. Nantogmah, Director of Public Affairs and Environment of the Ghana Chamber of Mines said in an interview that currently two local companies, the Precious Metal Refinery (PMR) and Asap Vespa both refined and sold gold to goldsmiths and jewellers.
"Thus, there is adequate refinery capacity in the country. It will be superfluous to have additional capacity in the Western Region,” he said.