|Hundreds of concerned citizens of Tarkwa and its neighboring communities have protested against Gold Fields mining company’s plans to retrench more than 2,150 workers at its Tarkwa mine.
Amid singing and chanting their woes, the demonstrators, who wore red armbands converged at the University of Mines and Technology Basic School (UBUS) at 0600 hrs.
Even though Ghana Police Service withdrew its officers because of an injunction the leaders claimed they received few hours to the programme, the demonstration went on peacefully. The one and half-hour long demonstration commenced at 0805hrs from UBUS and they marched through the Tarkwa main lorry station, hospital road, market circle, Tarkwa Na Aboso and the group ended at the Tarkwa Nsueam Municipal Assembly.
Some of the protesters carried placards which read, “Alfred must go”, “Don’t sack our husbands “No Obuasi in Tarkwa”, “Francis Eduku must go” and “Favoritism at Gold Fields”
Addressing the crowd later, Mr Frank Woode, a Convener of the group, said both past and present governments have strived to create an enabling environment for businesses particularly those in the private sector to thrive with the hope that these businesses would create jobs for the teeming young men and women in the country.
He said the government of Ghana in March 2016 signed a Development Agreement with Gold Fields Ghana covering its Tarkwa and Damang mines which was expected to run for a period of 11 years and 9 years for both mines respectively.
Mr Woode said effect of the Development Agreement saw a reduction of corporate tax for Gold Fields from the existing 35 percent to 32.5 percent which begun on March 17, 2016.
He said royalty rate changed from 5 percent of revenue to a sliding scale royalty based on the gold which also took effect from January 1, 2017.
He explained that “whiles Gold Fields will pay 3 percent of revenue as royalties, its peers within the same sector are expected to pay a 5 percent rate on revenue as royalties”.
He said the fiscal incentives provided in the Development Agreement would turn in an average saving of US $ 33 million per annum to Gold Fields Ghana beginning from 2016.
Mr Woode said government gave away these incentives principally because Section 49 of the Minerals and Mining Act allowed the state to enter into Development Agreement with holders of mining leases where the proposed investment exceeded US $ 500 million.
He said Gold Fields Ghana Limited had a mining lease and had promised to invest an additional US$ 2.5 billion in both Tarkwa and Damang mines and added that the new investment would increase gold production at the two mines by 40 percent to one million ounces per year.
“One year on, and after these generous fiscal and other concession, Gold Fields has the audacity to disregard its own obligations and promises and wants to resort to an insensitive retrenchment programme in which more than 2,150 workers will lose their jobs and livelihoods”, he said.
This, he said, cannot be the “more jobs” Gold Fields promised the government and the people of Ghana in return for the huge fiscal incentive.
Mr Woode said while the government was working hard to facilitate the creation of jobs for the masses, multinationals such as Gold Fields who were beneficiaries of such juicy incentives were busy thwarting their job creation efforts by simply resorting to retrenchment of workers in exchange for super normal profits.
He said the group was reliably informed that the Ghana Mineworkers Union of TUC (Ghana) was already in court pursuing justice for its members who were workers of Gold Fields and stressed that they respect that as concerned citizens of Tarkwa and its environs.
He said “considering the enormity of the issues and the potential consequences it could bring to workers, families, the domestic economy of Tarkwa and the nation as a whole, we are of a firm conviction that your executive intervention is extremely crucial to seek a timely and balanced resolution of the matter”.
Mr Woode said the group was increasingly getting alarmed by the lackluster attitude of Gold Fields towards the development of the Tarkwa underground mine which has the potential of employing thousands of people.
“Considering the mineral resource potential of the Tarkwa underground mine and the disappointing behavior of Gold Fields to develop the underground mine, we believe that the time is ripe for Gold Fields to either develop the underground mine as originally intended or relinquish the underground asset to another investor that would, develop, create jobs and contribute to the growth of the nation”, he stressed.
He called on the government to as a matter of urgency to ensure that Gold Fields implement its side of the Development Agreement to the end and refrain from adducing additional arguments to justify what was basically an unjustifiably action.
The group also asked the government to compel Gold Fields to develop the underground mine or release it to another investor.
Leadership of the group after the protest presented a petition to Tarkwa Nsueam Municipal Assembly.
Mrs Babbie Annan-Nunoo, Public Relations Officer, who received the petition on behalf of the assembly promised to hand it over to the appropriate authorities.