A high-powered task force is being set up by the government with the view to finding solutions to problems confronting the mining sector.

The task force will also seek a new paradigm for the mining sector to make it better suited to the national development agenda, as well as help to erase the erroneous perceptions among the public that mining companies are exploitative and contributing little in real terms to the economy.

The decision to set up the task force was the outcome of a meeting that was held by President J. A. Kufuor with members of the Ghana Chamber of Mines in Accra yesterday.

The meeting, which was characterised by frank but friendly discussions, went into a closed-door session after the initial opening statements.

The task force is expected to comprise representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Mines, Lands and Forestry, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Habours and Railways, National Security, Ghana Minerals Commission, the Ghana Chamber of Mines, and the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GPIC).

Some of the issues discussed at the meeting, and which would form the basis for the work of the task force, were illegal mining (popularly called Galamsey), environmental concerns, railway network, fiscal regime, energy and revenue.

Addressing the opening session, President Kufuor said the mining sector, which was very critical to the national economy, was perceived as vestiges of colonialism.

He underscored the need for mining companies to shed those perceived colonial legacies by ensuring that they were seen as Ghanaian business entities.

President Kufuor said the country needed the mining companies just as they also needed the nation and, therefore, the spirit of the relationship between the two partners should be a win-win one.

He assured the mining companies that they should continue their operations knowing that the government was a dependable partner while the government also regarded them as very vital to the national economy.

The President said there was the need for a paradigm shift in the mining sector so that both the government and the mining companies would continue to feel comfortable with each other.

The President of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Mr Jurgen Eigendaal, said it was a welcome development that both policy makers and the business community sat down to address critical issues confronting the mining sector.

He said there were perceptions that the contribution of the mining sector to the national economy was minimal, a development that needed to be addressed.

He conceded that the mining sector had a critical role to play in national development much as it also had certain expectations, and pledged the support of the chamber to efforts being made by the government to enhance the mining sector in the country.

In an interaction with journalists at the end of the meeting, Dr Anthony Osei Akoto, Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, said deliberations would be held to determine specific people who would constitute the task force by the end of the week .

For his part, Mr Andrew Awuni, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman, said the new initiative by the President was intended to deepen public involvement in the mining sector and remove the perception about mining companies and their activities.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Ms Joyce Aryee, said the perception that mining companies were exploitative and their operations did not fully benefit the economy was wrong and underscored the need to remove the perception and manage the expectations of the people well.

Source: Daily Graphic