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01.11.2002 General News

Akwatia diamonds is dying

By Ghanaian Times/Corrected by McKinley
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Akwatia (Eastern Region) 01.10.2002 - The Ghana Consolidated Diamonds Limited (GCD) at Akwatia in the Eastern Region, one of the richest diamond mines in Africa with a 746 workforce, is on the verge of collapse. All the equipment and structures have become obsolete; some were acquired about 70 years ago. This came to light when the Minister of Mines, Kwadwo Adjei-Darko, visited on Wednesday to see how best the government could help to revamp the company. Indications are that the delay in divesting the company had further compounded GCD’s woes. James Lamaire, General Manager of GCD, said the only hope now left was for the company to be taken over by Mard’Gold, a United States Company which won the divestiture bid about three years ago. He said that the government divested the company for $17m and Mard’Gold won the bid. Mard’Gold had been unable to fulfill a forward payment of $10m as requested by the government. It has promised for the third time, to make that payment by Friday. Lamaire described the situation as “precarious but hopeful, indicating that to sustain the company, GCD had resorted to the tribute system by which private entrepreneurs were given portions of the mining area to mine, and give part of their yield to the company. That, he said, was not bringing the needed benefits since the tributes most of the time cheats the company. He said that management had not been able to secure financial support from government for infrastructure development since 1982 because the usual explanation was that the company was going to be divested and that there was no use injecting funds. He blamed the company’s present situation on governments total neglect. Joseph Godson Amamoo, the chairman of GCD Board, said it was regrettable that only 17 per cent of the 100 square mile concession of the company had been exploited. The sector Minister, in his remarks at a meeting with a cross section of the workers, said that it was not the government’s intention to delay the divestiture. Amadoo said the government as a seller could not force interested companies to take over the company, but had to wait patiently until the bid winner paid what was due government. Adjei-Darko said should Mard’Gold fail to turn-up, the GCD management should strategize and look for effective options to keep the company running. He gave the assurance that government would do its best to ensure that the company did not collapse. The Minister cautioned the workers who have been recently clamoring for divestiture to be aware of the consequences, especially because a restructuring of the company may cause many of them their jobs. He said that the government did not want the recurrence of what happened at Prestea, where the workers after agitating for divestiture, turned around to blame the government for losing their jobs. Recognizing they were working under deplorable conditions, Adjei-Darko pleaded with the workers to work hard to sustain the mines until it was divested. On the tribute system, the Minister announced that his ministry would institute effective structures to streamline the activities of the tributes to ensure that the company and the government derived the needed benefits. Speaking to some tributes earlier, he urged them to cooperate with the company and to adopt good environmental practices.

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