“These Indians in the gold buying business have huge sums of money so they can buy a lot of gold at prices that we the local buyers cannot afford; They export the gold without paying any taxes because their transactions do not pass through proper channels for the country to benefit."
This narrative of an Asante businessman, bares semblance of that of many local traders in the extractive industry, who have in recent years trumpeted the total hijack of the local gold buying business by foreigners, ostensibly booting them out of the trade.
As the country bares all the ills that come with the deliberate degradation of the environment in search of precious minerals (galamsey), which seemingly feed the small scale gold buying industry, foreigners top the list of beneficiaries of the predominantly illegal trade to the detriment of the government and the citizens of the country. This is because, it has been established that they export gold without paying any export
It is a shame that, determined as this government may be, we have seen very little come out of the huge fight against galamsey. Just last week, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John-Peter Amewu, announced the extension of the ban on illegal mining indefinitely, and noted that the government’s agenda to halt the menace had not been achieved.
Mr Amewu is right. The government has failed to halt the menace but it is equally heart-breaking to learn that right there in Obuasi, where Operation Vanguard, the Military taskforce put together to forcefully stamp out the menace is stationed, galamsey is getting worse by the day and in an uncontrolled manner.
Checks from Abompe, Mpirikyire, Ayimadukrom and many other villages within the Adansi vicinity reveals just how much this fight is gradually becoming a sham.
We have to solve this menace that threatens the future of our existence in this green side of heaven. Yet we can’t solve it with a compromised team that keeps watch as resources of the state is stolen in broad daylight. Galamsey is not leaving us anytime soon.
Extend fight to gold exports
So with that said, as the government marks time to grow the right teeth to stamp out the menace, the real fight should be extended to how these minerals exit the country. We need to monitor just how much gold is shipped out of this country every day.
It is improper for major gold mining companies, after years of operating in the country to assay the gold they mine themselves before it is exported, when the law empowers the Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) to do so.
According to the law, a Licensed Gold Exporter (LGE) who intends to export gold shall inform the Precious Minerals Marketing Company Limited (PMMC) in writing of its export plans at least two working days before the planned weekly export.
It further states that, the LGE shall submit the gold ore to be assayed by PMMC at a designated assay centre, together with all declaration documents, packing list and invoice.
The PMMC shall determine the gold content of the gold ore presented by the LGE using the appropriate assay method as agreed by the LGEs, Minerals Commission and the PMMC.
Improper accounts for gold exports
Last year, while the Senior Minister was on an official visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates(UAE), he met with some top officials who said : “last year UAE recorded $7 billion worth of Gold imports from Ghana,” but official records in the country amounts to only $2 billion. This reveals that large quantities of gold leave the country without being accounted for and such illegal shipment of gold undoubtedly fuel the galamsey menace.
The improper accounting for extractive resources by concessionaires has been a major source of revenue loss to the country, with significant negative fiscal implications. Although the government claims to have begun discussions with mining companies, especially those engaged in the mining of gold to ensure that the country derives the maximum revenue from the exploitation of these resources, the government must be reminded that no fiscal management system of mining revenues can be robust without including measures aimed at properly accounting for the resources extracted.
The PMMC must be equipped to ensure that every single bar of gold leaving our shores is properly weighed, tested, valued and accounted for. The PMMC must guard our precious minerals for the ordinary citizens to gain the full benefits.
And while at it, the government can lead deliberations on other areas militating against resource-rich countries, including the locking out of resource-rich countries from the high-value ends of value chains, limited local content and the lack of full participation of local businesses in resource industries and growing revelations of illicit financial flows through ‘external accounts’.