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25.03.2006 Business & Finance

Fobih calls for local production of mining inputs


Elmina, March 25, GNA - Professor Dominic Fobih, the Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, has expressed concern that although raw materials used by mining companies such as activated carbon and lime could be produced locally the country has been importing them. He said a local company, which set up a factory to produce lime about 10 years ago, still imported quick lime only to hydrate it in the country.

''The local production of such materials will have the possibility of having a market in neighbouring countries.''

Prof Fobih, said this in an address read on his behalf at the opening of a two-day 'Mines Supply Chain Summit' of the Ghana Chamber of Mines on the theme" the role of logistics and supply chains in enhancing productivity in Ghana's mining industry",at Elmina. The 'summit' which forms part of the Chamber's strategic plan to enhance the industry is deliberating on how to influence policy on supply chain and is tackling issues such as ''opportunities to increase the local content of the mining industry, potential for rail transport in enhancing the competitiveness of mining companies in Ghana and remedying hazards in the movement of goods from the country's ports to the mines.''

Supply managers such as importers and exporters and officials of the Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Minerals Commission and the Customs Excise and Preventive Service are attending.

The minister said the country's mining sector was well recognized as a major source of the country's foreign direct investment and an important foreign exchange earner, and that experience in other mining countries showed that the industry in "Ghana has a much higher potential to improve the socio-economic fortunes of the country than it is doing". He said there was therefore the need to integrate mining into other spheres of the economy through the participation of the people in mining-related activities.

Prof Fobih said although Ghanaians might not be able to own shares in the mining companies, the presence of such companies should create opportunities for the people to enter into such areas as supply of mining inputs.

"It is in this way that a good part of the massive foreign direct investment inflows can remain in the country."

Prof Fobih commended the Chamber for launching a code of conduct to regulate the operation of its members and described it as an innovation, a bold step and a beacon for other industries to emulate. He said his visits to the mines have shown that "the producing members" of the Chamber had made a significant progress in developing healthy relations with their host communities through the provision of schools and potable water.

The minister, however, noted that the challenge now was for them to assist such communities in durable and sustainable socio-economic development that would enhance their standard of living.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chamber, Ms Joyce Aryee, echoed the concerns expressed by the minister, over the nation's inability to produce mining inputs locally, while the industry spent 36 million dollars annually to import activated carbon that could be produced locally from coconut and palm kernel shells. She expressed regret that as a result the nation had lost and continues to lose opportunities for employment creation and poverty reduction.

Ms Aryee pledged that the Chamber would help develop the competence of local entrepreneurs who venture into the production of mining inputs, but said the government, had a role in providing the framework within which mining companies could fit their procurement requirements to add value for the country.

She said although the Mineral and Mining Law provided for the use of local inputs where possible, there was the need for the nation to take a strategic view of the industry and identify inputs that the country has a competitive advantage to produce locally such as aluminium.

Ms Aryee said there was need for the nation to endeavour to regain the "seemingly lost opportunities" it had lost in the industry, adding that it was time for a strategic "re-think" of the structure of the mining industry in a manner that would enhance the socio-economic development of the country.

In an address delivered on his behalf, the Minister of Ports and Railways, Prof Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, enumerated efforts being made by the government to enhance the transportation of goods for the sector and other sectors of the economy.

These, he said, included the improvement of road networks, upgrading of cargo handling machinery and streamlining of the operations of CEPS.

The President of the Chamber, Mr Mike Ezan, debunked the notion that mining, was an "enclave industry" and said the industry cut across all sectors of the economy and that with the appropriate policy, it could be a "strong growth pole" in propelling the nation's economy forward.

He appealed to CEPS to streamline procedures for the clearing of inputs from the ports and expressed concern that inputs like activated carbon and cyanide in particular, which should be cleared within a week of their arrival at the ports, took months, thereby hindering operations in the industry. 25 March 06