I am compelled to ask our ancestors and our gods as to which crime we have committed? How big is that offense that the people cannot be forgiven? I am asking these because it appears to me that after the founder of the nation and first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the rest of the regimes didn’t know what to do about our problems as a developing country or are just clueless. It was Dr. Nkrumah, who, full of confidence in the African, said that the people of Africa may be poor but the continent is rich.
In recent times, the Director of the Kenya Law School, Prof Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, boldly declared that the political class of Africa is the greatest tragedy that has befallen the people. As if that’s not enough, Nana Akufo-Addo, the sitting President of Ghana, observed rightly in 2016 during a political campaign, that Ghanaians are sitting on wealth and yet they are hungry. So I ask again, which gods have we wronged? Or we are simply a country of idiots and imbeciles who cannot think for themselves or are destined by our creator to be poor?
Today, the world’s leading producer of gold is Ghana. The country overtook the Republic of South Africa some five years ago. The colonial name of the nation was Gold Coast and that must inform everyone that the country is rich. Gold mining started in Ghana officially in 1897. Today, there are 23 mining companies in the country. Sad to say that not even one belongs to the state or a Ghanaian. The biggest of the mines, Goldfields, used to be 100% state-owned. Today the nation has less than 3% except for royalties and taxes. Apart from gold, there are diamond, bauxite, and manganese, all in commercial quantities.
Since 2007, the country has hit oil and gas big time. Again, the nation’s intellectuals and political class always give our resources away. The maximum percentage Ghana has ever gotten from oil is less than 20%. That is out of 100% because it is ours. Our negotiators are always interested in only royalties and taxes and rewarding investors with decades of tax holidays and free zones attractions. And the mention of tax holidays has brought me to the reason for this post. I wonder how many Ghanaians know about the mineral called LITHIUM?
Lithium is a very valuable mineral used in rechargeable batteries for phones, laptops, digital cameras, and above all, electric vehicles. In general, it is preferred to nickel-metal batteries because of their reliability. One commentary described it as the preferred power source for energy-hungry devices. And by now, everyone knows the new normal in world environmental matters. The whole world is going green and everything possible is being done to stop the use of fossil fuels because they are the major source of environmental pollution and degradation. Therefore, the latest technology is electric vehicles, the batteries of which are made from lithium as stated earlier. It implies that in less than ten years, it will attract a very high price on the international market.
The mineral is common but extremely difficult to extract. The extraction involves very large volumes of water. Chile and Australia are the world’s largest producers. In Africa, two countries, Zimbabwe and the D R Congo are the leading producers. Fortunately, as usual, some has been found in Ghana, precisely in the Ashanti and Central regions. There are reports of some in the Volta region too. Saltpond and Cape Coast are where large quantities have been found and estimated at US$150 billion( one hundred and fifty billion dollars).
I hear our authorities are in a hurry to sell the stuff so an Australian mining company called Iron Rich Resources is in the center of the negotiations. Some of the terms include 10 years tax holiday and Economic Free Zone conditions where items are imported for free. Ghana is asking for 5% royalty and only 10% in quantity at current interest(whatever that means). The company will mine for 30 years and renewable for another 30 years. With time, should Ghana need more than 10%, Iron Rich MAY OFFER UP TO 15% which the country must pay for? My problem is why are we in a hurry? Why is the country interested in only 10 and not 50 %? Do we need seers or magicians to tell us that the world will be in lithium time in less than a decade?
Is our legislature aware of this international deal and why is it being kept in the dark Anyway, I don’t expect any good answers to come from any of the three arms of government because for close to 30 years since the birth of the Fourth Republic, our governments, so far, have sold our resources for V8 vehicles and severance awards.
( by Eric Bortey, a journalist, formerly with the GBC and NCCE )
Wednesday August 18 ,2021