The Evolution of the Ghana Chamber of Mines From 1928 -2008
The challenges confronting the mining sector today are daunting. There are conflicting demands from across board - local, national and international levels.
The Ghana Chamber of Mines, the unifying organization for the local mining industry and its affiliates need to be both creative and proactive to carefully manage relationships with their publics and meet their various demands.
Such was the view of James K. Anaman, when he concluded his book titled "The Evolution of The Ghana Chamber of Mines - 80 Years of Mining in Ghana." In the 115-page book, he recorded events that took place, as well as, developments and decisions made in the pre-independence and post-independence eras, which have shaped the mining industry in Ghana.
Though the main focus of the book is on the period 1928-2008, Anaman attempts to paint a picture of the beginning of mining in Ghana (formerly Gold Coast). The Past President of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, points out that " long before the Iberian seafarers reached 'the Mina Coast' (presently Elmina) at the end of the fifteen century, the local people had mined for gold."
Perhaps, for this reason, he devotes much of the introduction to the book to talk about the "noble" metal - gold. The local women, chiefs and other dignitaries decorated themselves with gold. Later, gold was to become a medium of trade. Around the 1480s, "ordinary people" readily parted with gold dust and nuggets in exchange for European merchandise "of relatively lesser value" from the Portuguese merchant adventurers. "Indeed, gold trade in the region of most areas exerted such a pull on European merchants in the Middle Ages that ultimately led to the beginning of Slave Trade and later on, in the emergence of the Gold Coast as a British colony and the accompanying gold-rush."
The author also does not forget the role played by traditional authorities in the eventual use of gold as a medium of trade between them and the Dutch and British emissaries. Denkyirahene Boamponsem, Asantehene Osei Tutu I and Nkawiehene Kwabena Kufuor were some of the chiefs who became important trade partners for the Europeans.
It is believed that modern gold mining in Ghana generally began with Frenchman Pierre Bonnat who laboured from 1876-82 to prepare the way for the emergence of Ashanti Goldfields in 1895. Later, between 1913 and 1930, the Gold Coast Geological Survey under the leadership of Englishman, Sir Albert Ernest Kitson, located deposits of bauxite, manganese and diamonds.
It is not clear how mining firms organized themselves prior to the birth of the West African Chamber of Mines in 1903. But the author states that the establishment of the Chamber paved the way for the active promotion of the local mining interests of shareholders and directors of the mining companies who were predominantly foreigners based mainly in London. For instance, "In the political arena, the Gold Coast Colony (Legislative Council) Order in Council, 1925, gave the Colony elected representation for the first time and among the membership was one European mining member elected by the Chamber of Mines "
By this time, the various local authorities where the mines were located had limited recognition. They could only enhance in some shape and form the associated mining operations. The capital-intensive nature of the industry and the new technology employed by the foreign companies together with the overriding interests of the Colonial Office in London "clearly limited any other meaningful role for the chiefs, in spite of their status as 'landlords'."
That notwithstanding, Governor Sir Gordon Guggisberg (1919-27) partially consolidated the mining gains and ushered in a period of momentous socio-economic developments such as the construction of the Takoradi Harbour, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and the Achimota School.
Come 6th June, 1928, the Gold Coast Chamber of Mines (now Ghana Chamber of Mines) "was specifically incorporated out of the West African Chamber of Mines and structured as a private Company under the Presidency of C. R. Millar (1926-34)." Anaman observes that this new development guaranteed a dedicated service to the member companies as a whole and enhanced the management of the relationships with all the present and emerging stakeholders in the Gold Coast.
The impact of this new body, which operated from the mining town of Tarkwa in the Western Region, was immediate, as it lobbied through its three representatives on the Legislative body. It got the government to consider the construction of the roads from Obuasi to Brofoyedru and Abosso to Bogoso against the backdrop of the importance of good road-network to the industry. "Again, through the instrumentality of the Chamber, broadcasting through re-diffusion stations reached the mining centres of Akwatia, Bibiani, Obuasi, Prestea and Tarkwa as part of the programme for radio stations by 1938."
The local Chamber also advocated for a review of a war-time mining taxation on fuel, which the colonial administration imposed during World War II. It also made valuable input into several important legislations like the Companies Code of 1963.
The period immediately following independence was characterised by changes in the structure of the Chamber of Mines. First was the change of name from the Gold Coast Chamber of Mines to the Ghana Chamber of Mines. By 4th February 1964, the Chamber was converted under the Companies Code 1963 (Act 179) into a Company Limited by Guarantee. And, it moved its headquarters to Accra in 1967.
President Kwame Nkrumah's policy initiatives are viewed to have favoured the Chamber in several ways, especially his government's acquisition of five cash-strapped mines. He also allowed the state-owned companies to work together in the Chamber. "It is striking to note that, having deliberately and skillfully introduced the state into operational mining " Dr. Nkrumah " succeeded in putting Ghanaians at the helm of the Chamber Records show that as many as twelve Ghanaians have assumed the Presidency of the Chamber since Nkrumah's bold initiatives in mining "
Going forward, the author acknowledges that "successive governments, be they colonial, military or constitutional, have all done well in keeping their eyes on the mining ball and playing the game by recognized rules and regulations set by the circumstances within which a particular regime found itself."
From the 1980s, the Chamber or its member firms have made varying interventions in national development. Through its Trust Fund, the Chamber of Mines sponsored the publication of two medical books in 1997. Beyond that, the Ashanti Goldfields company has given sponsorship to Ghana football since the mid 2000s.
Today, the author is of the view that "the challenges confronting the Chamber remain as daunting as the depth of the tact, competence and versatility of those who constitute the Ghana Chamber of Mines in its fullest range."
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of James K. Anaman and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.