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Business News of Saturday, 29 November 2003

Source: GNA

Govt to regulate retention rate of expatriates

Accra, Nov. 28, GNA - Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, on Friday said government would soon come out with retention levels to be repatriated outside the country for mining companies.

He said currently an average of 60 per cent of mineral proceeds of mining companies was repatriated, which were approved by the Central Bank.

Mr Safo-Marfo said: "On this important matter that affect the countries credit rating, the Bank of Ghana.

The Private Sector Development Ministry, and the Ministry of Finance would soon initiate discussions with the mining companies and the Chamber to arrive at a definitive and realistic position on the levels of earnings that should be repatriated out of the country."

The Minister said these in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Paul Agyiri, Chief Director of the Ministry at the closing session of the 4th Council Meeting of the Ghana Chamber of Mines in Accra.

The meeting, attended by representatives of mining companies in the country, and other affiliate bodies in the industry was chaired Ms Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Officer the Chamber.

He also expressed concern about conditions tied to project loans contracted by mining companies, which often required that part of mineral proceeds be retained outside the country.

On the reason for the introduction of Reclamation Bonds, Mr Osafo Maafo explained that bonds provided security and assurances for the rehabilitation of disturbed cites in the unlikely event that the mines closed prematurely as well as serving as the industries commitment to environmental management.

He said mining companies have posted 13.5 million dollars and 240 million cedis in cash in addition to 4.8 million dollars in bank guarantees and insurance as reclamation bonds.

Mr Osafo-Maafo also expressed concern about royalties paid to host communities, stressing "in the mining districts, the host communities received quite little of the mineral royalties because substantial part of the royalties are applied by government in the provision of projects across the country".

The Minister said beside, the minimal portions that were eventually returned to the district communities were not used for visible projects but rather on recurrent expenditures.

He called for an improvement in the system, stressing that mining companies operated within government policy and should be seen as an industry that impacted positively on the economy.

Mr Osafo-Maafo, however, commended members of the Chamber of Mines for providing 30,000 seedlings and other resources towards the Presidential Special Initiative on Forestry to help improve the forest cover of the country.

He said they were legally and ethically obligated to put in place measures that would minimize the adverse impact of their activities on the environment and the echo system.

The Minister also acknowledged the advocacy role by operators in the mining sector for land swapping whereby mining companies provided support for re-forestation of degraded areas outside their concessions in addition to reclaiming mined out areas.

Mr Osafo Maafo dispelled the fears of people on the degradation of the environment by mining companies.

He said according to an Environmental Protection Agency report on Mining Environmental Regulations and Standards the Chamber recorded over 75 per cent compliance during last year.

The Minister also said, currently, out of a total land area of about 240,000 kilometres square only about 31,237 or 13 per cent had been granted large scale mines for recognizance, prospecting and active mining.

He said only 4,304 kilometres square or less than two per cent of the total landmark was under actual mining operations in the country.