Two of the world's most sought-after commodities -bauxite and manganese are being locked up in Awaso and Nsuta in the Western and Ashanti regions of Ghana.
This development has angered the residents of the two resource host communities, the mining companies, and the Ghana Mineworkers' Union (GMWU), which issued a one year ultimatum to the government to reconstruct the Western Rail line and other deplorable roads in the areas. The old bauxite town of Awaso which produces the mineral after 66 years looks dowdy, underdeveloped and decrepit.
The Bosai Minerals Groups, a Chinese firm acquired 80 per cent shares of the Ghana Bauxite Company with the Ghanaian government controlling the remaining 20 per cent stake is the sole producer of bauxite ore in Ghana which used to produce aluminum for commerce, transportation and other industries uses.
The Awaso mine is served by a rail branch line on the western Ghana rail system, while Ghana Manganese Company Limited produces manganese from Nsuta, a small town and the capital of Sekyere Central, a district in the Ashanti Region. Nsuta is served by a station on the country's national railway network.
However, since 2007, much of the bauxite and manganese ores go to the Takoradi Port by road due to the deplorable state of the West African country's railway system. In the absence of the well-functioning railway system, these mining companies continued to make use of the more expensive road haulage from their respective mines, which adversely impacted on their operations.
The General Secretary of the Ghana Mineworkers' Union, Prince William Ankrah noted with concern that; "despite the huge deposits of bauxite and manganese in the Awaso and Nsuta areas, they are seriously under exploited due to haulage challenges. We have, together with the two companies, as well as the Ghana Chamber of Mines, appealed to government to as a matter of priority reconstruct the Western Rail line which used to haul the two minerals to the Takoradi Port."
This, the mineworkers believe, would expand the activities of the companies, impact on government revenue and provide employment to the youth in the communities. There is no doubt that the businesses will be making savings to reduce cost. Related to this is the deplorable road network that links Tarkwa and Bogoso. This strategic mining road, unfortunately, has deteriorated to the point where it is near impossible to ply it, according to Mr. William Ankrah.
Launching the union's 70th anniversary at Tarkwa over the weekend, he stated: "This is the road where miners ply everyday to and from work. "This time we will not urge government but give a year's ultimatum to fix the road, failing which the union will do everything within its powers to withdraw labour in these areas".
Mr. William Ankrah noted that the rehabilitation of the railway network would not inure to the benefit of the mining companies alone, but also provide a cost effective alternative for transporting life and goods for the other sectors of the economy. In two different resolutions, he underscored the urgent need for the establishment of a Mining Community Development Fund, into which 25% of mining receipt would be lodged to fund the much anticipated and awaited infrastructure in these communities.
According to him, they were mindful of the provisions in the Constitution of Ghana and the Minerals and Mining Act (2006 Act 703) which vest all minerals in the President who hold it in trust for all the people of Ghana. However, the members of the GMWU do think that the country has failed to ensure the effective utilization of its mining receipt to the benefit of the host communities, saying the current royalty apportionment to the district assemblies and the traditional authorities need a rethinking to ensure its judicious use.
Mr. William Ankrah indicated that the union was also eager to know the outcome of the Professor Akilakpa Sawyer's Committee, instituted by the late President John Evans Atta Mills, tasked to review and make recommendations to government on the various contractual regimes the country has with the mining companies. "As a strong advocate of this initiative, we are concerned about the slow pace of the Committee's work. We would like to urge government to make available to the public the final report of the Committee if it has finished its work", he added.