My name is Kwame Tawiah Ansah, Bogoso/Prestea Community Member and I want to thank you very much for allowing me the permission to once again meet with you on your phones, computers and tablets through this medium.
Having thanked you, we all recall that when the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo took office on January 7, 2017, he challenged us not to be spectators but that we should be citizens and involved in the governance of the nation.
It is for this reason that, I cannot sit and watch the once vibrant mine which was the source of livelihood for the people and even source of income for the government to be closed down or sold to an alleged unqualified company to continue its operations which could eventually be shutdown.
I hold very dear the words of the national anthem and the national pledge which has been my guiding principle till date. Let me not bore you again but why am I here today as well.
Illegal mining (also known as galamsey) is said to be mining activity that is undertaken by an individual or an entity without state permission, particularly in the absence of land rights, mining licenses, and exploration or mineral transportation permits.
This means any mine, be it small, medium or large one operating in the country with its permit expired and not renewed is also operating illegally and if am dared, I will say they are also engaged in galamsey.
In Ghana today, illegal mining has been a battle the government has to contend with daily; particularly for small scale mining groups. But recent occurrences and observations however have unveiled potential illegal operations at the Bogoso Prestea Mine following the sale of the mine by the former owners Golden Star Resources (GSR) to Future Global Resources (FGR).
This is the least of expectations from multinationals and corporate organizations specifically GSR which has undertaken a business transaction which is alleged to mislead the government and people of Ghana on their true intentions for the mine.
My sources within the business say the successor of GSR which is FGR is operating the mine without a mine operating permit which is to come from the Minerals Commission and environmental permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ghana.
These permits which are very crucial for any mine operating in the country, I understand, expired in December 2020. As of today, the environmental permit has not been renewed by the EPA but the mine is in operation and the mine operating permit from the minerals commission which had a month extension in January is also yet to be renewed. This means that the Bogoso Prestea Mine has been operating without permit since January 2021.
The news of this has become a source of worry to employees, suppliers and the community at large as the mine can be asked to halt operations anytime by the regulatory agencies (Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency).
I understand that the permit has not been granted because the new owners have not been able to post a bond of US$ 6million dollars in cash and a bank guarantee bond of US $36 million dollars to the EPA and unless the EPA bond is posted and permit granted, the Minerals Commission’s mine operating permit would not be granted.
Regulatory Permits to Operate
Every mine operating in Ghana is required to obtain two major permits which include a mining operating permit issued by the Minerals Commission of Ghana and an Environmental Permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The mine operating permit is issued in accordance with the Minerals and Mining Act and requires that mines operate in compliance with the requirements of the Act and its associated regulations.
The environmental permit is issued in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency Act and requires that an operating mine comply with the Act and its associated environmental assessment regulations. These permits are public documents required to be available to all stakeholders and publicly displayed.
Checks at the relevant government institutions indicate that these permits are unavailable and have not been acquired by FGR following the takeover of the mine though the company has operated for the past six months on Ghanaian soil shipping gold off the shores of the country and profiting from same.
Would such misconduct of an operation by a multinational company occur elsewhere in the world under the watch of various stakeholders?
Apparently FGR is now pursuing these permits while at the same time mining the gold resource in the area.
Are permits required to be obtained prior to mining or vice versa?
What conditional clauses were given by Government in relation to permit acquisition during the sale of the mine in the first place and have these been violated or not?
Why is this status quo allowed to continue?
Hopefully, I want to believe that public officials at the various regulatory agencies, leadership at the relevant ministries, and even the presidency are not being unduly influenced by “lobbyists” representing the two companies to bend the rules in their favour.
Any individual or group of individuals who take that route would most likely live to regret it because it is not in the interest of the people of this country and there is serious public focus on our institutions regarding their conduct on this matter.
Readers may recall that the new owners of the mine are new to the mining industry, the company FGR having been formed just 10 months prior to acquiring the Bogoso Prestea mine on October 1, 2020 and paying nothing to acquire the mine. After taking over the mine as “investors”, they have also not invested a single dollar in the development of the mine but have operated for the past six months profiting from the gold resources of this country.
The new owner of the mine, FGR being private and not listed on any stock exchange in not obliged to be compliant with any global requirements in terms of rules governing the gold mining industry. It is only Ghana’s institutions that can ensure that the mine operates in a legally safe and environmentally friendly manner.
The whip from Government to ensure FGR and even GSR do the needful has however not been cracked. This inaction is putting the mine at risk. The mine community call on various government institutions to act now to save the mine to avoid an occurrence that could lead to total disaster on the mine.
The unfolding stories of FGR acquiring the Bogoso Prestea Mine tends to scare the entire mine community following several observations and fact findings. Current observations make it evident that FGR does not even have the capacity to obtain the necessary regulatory permits to run the mine and hence have operated and are operating quite possibly as an illegal operation after taking over the mine on October 1, 2020. This puts the mine even in further serious risk of collapse.
Loss-making Sale by GSR
Golden Star’s last quarter 2020 financial statement (http://s1.q4cdn.com/789791377/files/doc_financials/2020/q4/99.2-FS-Q4-2020-FINAL.pdf) had comments by PwC, an independent audit firm (on page 3) stating GSR lost some US$37 million through the sale of the Bogoso Prestea Mine. At present, GSR has also not received any payment from FGR following the sale agreement. On the due date (March 30, 2021) for the payment of the first tranche as part of the sale agreement which was published, six months after the takeover of the mine by FGR, GSR announced a deferment of the payment to May 31, 2021 due to the inability of FGR to make the necessary payments – “The staged payments that form the deferred consideration, as outlined in the Share Purchase Agreement, have now been reprofiled to allow time for FGR to complete the environmental bonding process for Bogoso-Prestea and to bring forward the second deferred payment due in 2021 such that both staged payments will be made together on 31 May, 2021.”(http://www.gsr.com/investors/news/news-details/2021/Golden-Star-Announces-Amendment-of-Agreement-for-the-Sale-of-Bogoso-Prestea/default.aspx). This is the same FGR that GSR had managed to convince the unsuspecting Ghanaian public six months ago of being backed by Blue International Group which supposedly was involved in projects worth US$ 2 Billion dollars! This certainly confirms that the sale arrangement was a backdoor deal. Why would a publicly listed company sell a mine at a loss of as much as US$37 million to a private company (conveniently formed right around the time of their 2019 Full Year Financial Report which noted the Bogoso Prestea Mine as a diminished cash generation unit) and still be comfortable with deferred payments? If such a deal is not meant to avoid greater liabilities, what else? All evidence points to the fact that GSR aimed at escaping the US$53 million reclamation liabilities and perhaps additional undisclosed huge debts. There is no problem in a company cutting their losses, what is deceitful is marketing that appear as an effort to turn around the mine to benefit workers, communities, and the country when it is meant to benefit GSR in the short term at the expense of workers, the community and the country’s economy. If this were not the case, a capable investor and experienced miner would have been sought by GSR on their exit from the Bogoso Prestea mine. Such an investor would have invested seriously to transform the mine, sustain jobs and local economies, and certainly infused the country’s economy with much needed foreign exchange.
Bogoso Prestea Impairment and FGR formation
In the 2019 Full Year Financial Report of GSR (http://www.gsr.com/investors/news/news-details/2020/Golden-Star-Resources-Reports-Fourth-Quarter-2019-Results-and-Full-Year-2019-Results/default.aspx), the company discussed the impairment of the Bogoso Prestea Mine by stating “[i]n Q4 2019, the Company completed its annual budgeting and life of mine process. Management observed a decrease in the Prestea mine’s cash flow reflecting adjustments to key mine planning, cost and working capital assumptions following the conclusion of the independent review of the underground operations at Prestea and the revised life of mine plan. This resulted in a trigger for an impairment test. The book value of Prestea was determined by a discounted cash flow analysis of the indicative life of mine model. This life of mine model was developed solely for impairment testing purposes and it is management’s best, but conservative, estimate of the recoverable value of Prestea’s assets at December 31, 2019. The impairment test concluded that the Prestea value was lower than its previous carrying value, resulting in an impairment charge of $56.8m. The Prestea asset value is now balanced by liabilities and working capital for a net asset value of zero.” Readers may recall that FGR was formed and registered on December 31, 2019. It does not take a detective to connect the dots here.
It is worrying that the above signs were not observed by regulatory bodies who receive reports from the mining company most likely on monthly or periodic basis. Why were these red flags not picked up by the former sector minister prior to approving the sale? Is it the case that the former minister was misled or benefitted from the sale arrangement and hence made such an erroneous deal pass? Did the Authorities and stakeholders place their interest ahead of the sustainability and success of the mine? These questions remain unanswered while the Bogoso Prestea mine continues to suffer from the bad decisions taken by GSR and approved by the former sector Minister.
Alleged Deception of Wassa Mine Revamp Financing
Ironically, GSR has published on April 7, 2021, an intent to spend US$15 million to expand the Wassa Mine operations stating the said amount will be generated in-house (https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/business/Golden-Star-Resources-to-invest-US-15-million-in-Wassa-underground-mine-1226074). In the sale agreement between GSR and FGR, GSR was expectant of US$5 million on March 30, 2021 and US$10 million on July 31, 2021. Due to the inability of FGR to make this payment, GSR has made amendments to defer the payments to May 31, 2021 while promising investors of expanding the Wassa Mine operations with internally generated cashflow of US$15 million. The Bogoso Prestea mine being in serious debt and on a verge of operational collapse due to its debt burden, is obligated to pay this same amount to GSR while GSR continues to make profit from the Wassa Mine operations. In the meantime, this same GSR escapes liabilities they have created at the Bogoso Prestea Mine. These tricks should be identified by regulatory bodies and by the relevant sector ministers for the hard questions to be asked and tough decisions made to ensure the actions of an unethical mining company like GSR (at least in the transaction with FGR) do not impact negatively on the lives of Ghanaians.
The mine community call again on the Government to intervene as a matter of urgency through a post-sale investigation of the GSR-FGR transaction to identify alleged misconduct, and if any misdeed is found, punish the culprits, and take corrective measures against any potentially deceptive plans implemented.
Multinational mining companies of the calibre of GSR will surely embark on plans of excessive profit maximization with no recourse to the consequences and the liabilities they leave behind except when such companies are forced to adhere strictly to Ghana’s rules and regulations.
The mine community expect the authorities to correct these errors to ensure the true sustainability of the mine. Government should act and do so now.
GSR acquired Bogoso Prestea Mine in 1999. In 2002, the Bogoso Mine made very good profit and purchased the Satellite Gold Mine at Wassa Akyempim, which was renamed as Wexford and later named Golden Star Wassa Limited. GSR then operated these two major mines (Wassa Mine and Bogoso Mine) in Ghana. The two mines operated concurrently with support to each other in the areas of finance and labour. On record, Bogoso Prestea Mine supported Wassa Mine between 2014-2016 when it was in negative cash flow until 2018 when the Wassa production experienced positive cash flow. During the third quarter of 2018, LaMancha Investment Group bought majority shares of GSR. The chronology of events following Lamancha Investment Groups’ purchase of majority shares of GSR.
By: Kwame Tawiah Ansah, Bogoso/Prestea Community Member