GOLD DIGGERS

Ghana 2016 | ENERGY & MINING | REVIEW: MINING

Gold mining represents 95% of the country's mining sector, which is also the second largest producer of gold in Africa after South Africa.

The tradition of mining goes back centuries in Ghana with evidence dating to the Middle Ages when a number of the European powers at the time had an eye on the country's resources. Today, Ghana is able to use its natural resources for the betterment of its own people instead of that of a distant land. Ghana is Africa's second largest gold producer after South Africa and has significantly increased production since the 1990s. Because of this, the mining sector is largely driven by the gold sector, which in 2013 contributed 95% of the country's total mineral revenue according to the latest figures from the Chamber of Mines. While gold is at the forefront of the mining sector, there are many other resources that the country currently exploits, such as manganese, bauxite, and diamonds, as well as industrial minerals such as clay, kaolin, silica sand, and mica; however, these are on a smaller scale. The country also has a number of natural resources that remain largely unexploited, including iron ore, limestone, columbite-tantalite, feldspar, quartz, and salt, as well as minor deposits of ilmenite, magnetite, and rutile. According to the latest figures from the Chamber of Mines, the sector accounted for 1.7% of GDP in 2013 and 1.1% of total employment. However, it also accounted for 19% of government revenues and 37% of exports, while attracting roughly 50% of FDI coming into Ghana. Mining exports have grown by over 400% between 2005 and 2013, from $1.02 billion in 2005 to $5.14 billion in 2013.

The majority of the gold mines are located in the south west of the country. One of the largest gold mining companies in the country is the South African company Gold Fields Ghana, which in 2013 produced 785,421 ounces of gold. This was followed by the American company Newmont Ghana, which produced 699,399 ounces, and the Canadian company Gold Star Resources, which produced 330,807 ounces. In terms of other natural resources, the Chinese company Ghana Bauxite Company was the largest bauxite producer and mined 826,994 tons in 2013 and the Australian Ghana Manganese Company produced a little under 2 million tons of manganese according the Chamber of Mines. The mining sector in Ghana is concentrated into a small number of mines and companies. In total, seven mines in Ghana represent 71% of large-scale gold mining and approximately 46% of the gold mining industry in the country. Gold Fields and Newmont account for the largest percentage in terms of gold volumes produced at 14% and 13%, respectively, in 2013. Total production has been growing over the past few years. In 2010, the sector produced 1.9 million ounces, which increased to 2.14 million in 2014 according to the Chamber of Mines' latest estimates. However, it predicts that over the coming years total production is expected to decrease by 4.6% per annum and fall to 1.51 million ounces by 2022. This decline is expected to come about due to low gold prices globally, which is constraining the sector's ability to invest in exploration and expansions. A lack of investment and the natural life cycle of gold mines will see production drop. Still, it was the high gold prices during 2010 and 2013 that boosted revenues and allowed for the increased investment that will likely allow the sector see out the low prices. In 2013, total gold sector revenues stood at $3.69 billion, with expenditure around $3.44 billion. It is 2014, however, when revenue and investment took a turn and came in at $2.32 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively. Both are expected to continue to slowly decline for the coming years up until 2022 when it is predicted that revenue will for the gold mining sector will stand at $2.08 billion and expenditure at $1.73 billion.

While mining might not be the largest employer in the country, it still employs a significant amount of people, both skilled and unskilled. According to the Chamber of Mines, the sector is expected to host an average of 111,000 jobs per annum between 2010 and 2022. In 2013, the mining companies themselves employed directly around 8,000 people. The direct suppliers of those companies employed 38,000 while the suppliers' of the suppliers employed a further 47,000, with the re-spending of salaries accounting for 55,000 taking the total 148,000, which was 1.3% of the total workforce in Ghana. By 2022, the total number of employed, both directly and indirectly, is expected to fall to 83,000; however, the number of people directly employed by the mining companies is only to fall to 7,000. Direct suppliers and their suppliers will fall to 27,000 and 39,000, respectively. The government will hope, however, that this prediction can be reversed as the value-added per job from the mining sector is so high. Each job in a mining company adds $85,000 to the Ghanaian economy, which is one of the highest in the country. The nearest rival is in the extractive sector, which adds just over $30,000 per job and is considerably above the national average, which stands at $4,400 per employee and the agriculture sector, which adds $2,200 to the economy per employee.

The gold mining sector's future is predicted to be one of decline, largely due to low gold prices, which in turn is restricting investment in exploration and expansions. According to the Chamber of Mines, there are three main areas that will affect the future of the mining sector, and those are a decline in projected gold prices, an increased royalty rate, and an increase in local sourcing. If the gold price were to fall from $1,300 per ounce to $1,100 per ounce, then the total revenue of the sector would fall by $300 million per annum, which would equate to a $120 million loss for the government; however, employment would likely remain the same. If royalty rates were increased from 5% to 10%, which is a possibility as the government looks to recoup lost revenue, then government income would increase by approximately $70 million. However, like with a fall in gold prices the money would come out of the mining companies' revenue stream, which is unlikely to be a welcome move especially at a time of decline. If companies were to increase local content spending, which on average currently stands at $628 million per year or around 25% of total expenditure, it would be a welcome move by all. More local sourcing would create employment and demand for products in the country. It would also help diversify its economy and help protect the country from external shocks.