salt…as the metal’s price plunges

Ghana’s overdependence on gold should be curbed through a diversification strategy that props up minerals such as salt and limestone, and allied sectors such as mining support services, the Minerals Commission has said.

Gold, which accounts for more than 90 percent of minerals-production in Ghana and more than 40 percent of export income, has seen its worst downturn in a decade with the commodity’s price sliding by one-fifth in 2013.

The drop has sent worrying signals that this will not only reduce the viability of mining operations, but also negatively affect government revenue and the economy.

“We need to develop other ways of raising inflows and utilising other minerals so that the dependence on gold will be lessened,” said Ben Aryee, Chief Executive of the Commission. “Diversification is critical when it comes to planning.”

Mr. Aryee was echoing calls for Ghana to cut its reliance on traditional minerals and expand salt production which promises a huge market in West Africa, and limestone — a critical ingredient for Ghana’s rapidly-growing construction market.

“Ghana has the potential to produce salt in commercial quantities, but unfortunately the potential has not been exploited to its maximum extent. There is also a dimension of adding value to the salt produced. It should even feature in production in the oil industry,” said Mr. Aryee.

The country’s capacity for salt production is estimated at about 2.5 million tonnes per annum, but Ghana is only able to produce about 250,000 metric tonnes at present.

Mr. Aryee said clinker, which is derived from limestone, is currently imported from Europe by cement manufacturers; but he said a plan is being developed to produce the ingredient locally.

As part of the diversification strategy, there should be a shift to mining supplies and allied services, Mr. Aryee said. The problem however is that allied industries, which rely on mainstream mining companies for their business, also have their fortunes tied to the vagaries of the gold price.

“Mining is going to end at some point in time,” said Mr. Aryee. “That is why we need to develop capacity for other industrial sectors.”

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