The Minerals Commission of Ghana has offered 400 exploration licences to several hundreds of mining operators to prospect for gold, the chief government policymaker on natural resources has said.
The Minster of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, said about 200 mining companies are involved in the exploratory operation — mainly for the country’s gold that remains untapped.
The rush for Ghana’s mineral deposits comes at a time concerns have been raised about the rate of depletion of the country’s forest reserves and river banks, as more businesses and individuals turn to gold revenue for survival despite the erratic price of the commodity on the world market.
Mr. Osah Mills said this at the inauguration of Intertek Minerals Ghana Laboratory at Tarkwa in the Western Region.
Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, is well-endowed with substantial mineral resources — with the major ones being gold, diamonds, manganese and bauxite — with gold accounting for over 90% of all mineral revenues annually over the past two decades.
According to figures from the Minerals Commission, gold production from both large and small-scale operators in Ghana has increased from 535,052 ounces in 1990 to 4,341,607 ounces in 2014.
Proceeds from gold exports at the end of 2015, according to the Bank of Ghana, amounted to US$3.2billion amid increased smuggling of the precious metal.
Mr. Osah Mills said the companies that had been awarded exploration licences until the fall in the world gold price generated a lot of various types of samples for the few assay laboratories in Ghana.
He has thus encouraged investors to establish mineral assay laboratories in the country due to the significant mineral resource deposits.
“It took the assay laboratories a long time to analyse samples given to them by the exploration companies. Some big mining companies with the financial capacity sent out their samples to other countries for assaying in order to meet their scheduled work programmes.
“However, I wish to advise that all mineral assay laboratory operations should be environmentally friendly and law-abiding” he added.
He pointed out that the effects of delays in the assaying of exploration companies’ samples include a slowdown of exploration activities; delay in the development of new mines; less jobs and reduction in the revenue generated by the mining sector.
Again, he said the long waiting period for mining companies in assaying their samples gives a field day for illegal miners to operate within the companies’ licenced concession areas, degrade land, and pollute some of the water-bodies.
“It is therefore gratifying that Intertek Minerals Limited has expanded and upgraded its facilities in order to provide quality sample preparation, gold analyses by fire assay, aqua regia and cyanide leach methodologies, carbon analyses, analytical instruments among others — the operations of Intertek Minerals Limited will reduce the long time periods that exploration companies wait before getting their samples analysed,” he said.
He entreated Interek to extend it services beyond assaying only gold to other minerals to benefit from the unknown minerals that are treated as waste material — assay laboratories in other countries are able to carry out multi-element analyses to cover 32 minerals.
“Assay laboratories in others countries are able to carry out multi-element analyses to cover 32 minerals. I wish to encourage all the exploration companies to do the same so that we can maximise the exploitation of our mineral resources; your charges for assaying will also determine the level of patronage by the mining companies,” he said.
Mr. Tyrone Cowland of Intertek Minerals said the company aims to achieve stated capacity of processing 50,000 samples at the facility per month in the near-future, which will require Intertek to employ about 200 people.