The University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa has held the 6th Biennial International Mining and Minerals Conference on the theme “Expanding the Frontiers of Mining Technology” with a call on mining companies to adapt to the use of technology in order to realise maximum benefits. The Conference, which is held once every two years, was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions.
The Conference was aimed at engineers, scientists, researchers, consultants, business executives, students and all those who were interested in mining, processing, petroleum and the environment.
The objectives of the Conference were to present new developments, exchange experiences and practices in mining, petroleum and other engineering disciplines; discuss environmental and sustainable development issues; expatiate on the new concept of the mine of the future; and discuss climate change issues.
Addressing participants at the opening of the Conference, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Mines and Technology, Prof J. S. Y. Kuma said the organisation of the Conference, therefore, was part of a strategy to actualise the University’s vision of becoming a Centre of Excellence in Ghana and Africa for producing world-class professionals in the fields of mining, petroleum, technology and related disciplines. It was also to ensure that the University’s research outputs were internationalised and operationally disseminated widely. As a University, "we have always encouraged the exploitation of our natural resources using the best methods and the right technologies", Prof Kuma indicated.
Speaking on coronavirus, Prof Kuma said, the pandemic had brought about the realisation of some shortfalls as a people and added that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had warned that the virus presented the biggest danger to the global economy since the financial crisis. The pandemic and its resulting freeze in social and economic activities had triggered a rapid and sharp decline in the economies of countries all over the world.
According to Prof Kuma, generally, most multinational companies in the petroleum and mining sectors had the capacity to take precautionary measures to forestall disasters. Many also have in place contingency and health plans to forestall the harmful effects of some natural occurrences. However, most of the companies were seriously impacted as a result of the lockdown and international travel bans. The relevance of the industry however necessitated that the Government of Ghana exempted mining companies from the lockdown to continue production. Globally, some activities had been affected by the restrictions to encourage social distancing, either by reducing operations or temporarily closing down sites. Some of these mining companies, however, recorded some incidents of the COVID-19 virus among their staff.
The Vice Chancellor expressed happiness about the efforts of various companies to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic nationally and at community levels as part of their corporate social responsibility. Some large-scale mining companies through the Ghana Chamber of Mines supported the Government of Ghana during the crisis by donating USD 2 million towards the fight of the virus. He was hopeful that the COVID-19 crisis will help to increase the application of digital and autonomous systems of some major processes in the mining and petroleum industries.
Dr Tony Aubin
Delivering the Keynote address, the immediate past Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission of Ghana and the Founder and President of the Africa Institute of Extractives Industry (AIEI), an extractive industries Think-tank, Dr Anthony Aubyn urged mining companies to adopt the use of state-of-the-art technologies in order to get the desired results from their operations.
He said over 3.5 billion people live in countries rich in oil, gas and minerals. However, communities from countries with these minerals were among the poorest. According to him, Africa was endowed with lots of minerals, oil and gas reserves, ranks first or second in quantity of world reserves of bauxite, vermiculite, industrial diamond, cobalt, phosphate rock, platinum-group metals among others.
He further indicated that in as much as mining faced a lot of challenges, mining in Ghana had contributed a lot to the development of the country, citing the Tarkwa-Damang road constructed by Goldfields Ghana Limited as an example.
To optimise the full potential for mining to significantly catalyse sustainable development of Ghana and other resource rich countries, Dr Aubyn proposed the adaptation of technologically driven and an innovative attitude and a critical policy alignment. He made the point that there is a strong case for resource-rich developing countries, Ghana inclusive, not to discount mining but be resolute in harnessing it responsibly and with utmost care. He urged mining companies to adopt modern state-of-the-art technology that will increase efficiency and reduce cost.