Can natural resources benefit everyone?

Hi everyone. We’re about to drive 70 miles north of Takoradi through the rubber trees and palms to a mining town called Tarkwa. We’ll be broadcasting WHYS from there today with the brilliantly named Dynamite FM (Power in the air – is their on air strap line).

Over the past 50 years, the region has produced millions of dollars worth of gold – but when we took part in a phone-in on Dynamite yesterday, one caller represented many others when he said the gold has ‘done more harm than good’.

A miner’s life

Today’s show is first and foremost about the principles of using natural resources, but we’ll have over a hundred people gathered and if you have questions about day-to-day life in Tarkwa, email us and we’ll get you a reply.

How do you ensure natural resources benefit everyone?

Ghana has oil on the way and a lot of it. But speaking to the people of Tarkwa, they have as much concern as excitement about the discovery. Theirs is an intimate knowledge of what natural resources (gold in their case) and the industry they bring can do for a community. We’re looking for examples from your country of how you have handled natural resources and whether everyone has been served. I’d be especially keen to hear from those of you in Nigeria. What advice would you give your neighbours after the troubles in the Niger Delta?

Here are some of the complaints that we have heard from miners and their families:

The land doesn’t belong to the mines so why are they allowed to use it? (The government grants concessions which allow the mines to get the gold out of the ground and then repair the damage they have caused.)

Why don’t locals get more jobs?

Why doesn’t the high price of gold benefit us? Why are there still incredibly poor areas right next to the wealthiest mines?

The environmental impact has meant poor quality water and contaminated food produce.

Here are the counter-arguments from mine officials and some miners:

We have spent millions on supporting healthcare and education in the area. People have to want to get themselves educated before we can give them jobs.

We have no jobs for people without qualifications, but we are trying to help them get the schooling they require.

We don’t pollute and monitor our waste carefully. Others are polluting to blacken our name.

The land we use, we carefully repair and it is arguably more productive after we have mined than before.

A goat too far

We’ve had frustratingly small opportunities to get on the blog and jot down all the things we’re seeing and hearing. I had great plans for videos on YouTube and posts everyday but I’ve been foxed by the net connection. This has meant though that you’ve been saved tales of me having my ‘when in Rome’ approach to food put on the backburner by a challenging goat soup and chilli cow skin kebab.

But we have managed to put a few photos up on the blog. If you’d like to see pictures of Tarkwa and Takoradi (including me taking on all-comers on the long-jump at Sekondi stadium and of yesterday’s show from the side of the road), scroll down the front-page of the blog, and click on the Flickr link. Speak to you later.

51 Responses to “Can natural resources benefit everyone?”

  1. 1 john in Germany
    January 30, 2008 at 10:35

    Hi All.
    If correctly used yes, then they belong to everybody, or should. Its an old theme but greed is the problem. Over the world thousands of near slaves work to rob the earth of her substance, not for the benefit of mankind, but for the benefit of very few.

    In most areas where valuable commodities are found Oil; Gold, Diamonds, the local people have nothing. The excuse they have work is a big joke, look at the conditions in which they work?.

    The main profit is taken by the central government, where in some lands corruption depreciates the good it could do by <70%.

    One of the biggest problems with food is the transport, THE WORLD PRODUCES ENOUGH: But getting it to the people is the problem. ( How about the World subsidising the transport?)

    Oil and Gas
    Are used as political weapons, and the profit from sales will only ever feed the greed and power thirst of very few.

    As to the question
    History teaches us NO, Our souls wish YES.

    Greetings and good luck to all of our BBC reporters where ever they are.
    John in Germany

  2. January 30, 2008 at 11:04

    Governments and Mining corporations must carry out Impact assessment before mining.

    It should be a win win situation other than an imbalanced one…NOTE environment/health is important than dollars/wealth…

    Miners and communities will never benefit so long us governments approve mining projects without keen supervision….

  3. 3 Brett
    January 30, 2008 at 12:49

    It is interesting to note that in the majority of cases, the nations with the wealthiest stocks of natural resources, are often the poorest and most exploited. Its a matter of greed from both corporations and governments.
    Instances in the U.S. that would hit close to home would be the exploitation of Coal miners/workers and the land in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, etc. in the 1800’s and 1900’s. Though this was not nearly as bad as exploitation of people, resources and land by western corporations in other countries (mostly developing or undeveloped).

    National Geographic had an interesting article a few months back about a Canadian mining firm and the debate over its mining operations somewhere in europe, where the town had already suffered extreme heavy metal pollution from mining operations in the past, the name of the country escapes me.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  4. January 30, 2008 at 13:38

    Natural resources belong to evryone in a country and everyone should benefit financially but all too often this is not the case and just a few in the elite benefit. This is a particular problem in Africa I think.

  5. 5 Peterson Tumwebaze
    January 30, 2008 at 13:55

    Biblically natural resources are meant to benefit every one but because of a few selfish leaders call them politicians this fundalmental right is violated.
    For instance here in Uganda, some oil mines have been estabilished in the western parts of Uganda. but guess what?
    the local dwelers are being evicted from the these oil reserves.
    In fact, to conclude this hot topic, most Africans are poor because of a few politicians who have denied the rest an oppopturnity to use their natural resources. as granted by God

  6. 6 Idris by email
    January 30, 2008 at 14:37

    The main reason which makes those people who are living around areas where mining of natural resources to live in abject poverty in Africa is nothing but corruption which has eaten deeply into the hearts of those who are at the helm of affairs.

    Just take a look at the Niger Delta area in Nigeria, upon the massive wealth the region is making, the region is one of the most impoverished part of the country.

    Ithink the way forward is for our leaders to look back and try to have the state at heart not their “pot bellies” as their number one priority.

  7. 7 John D. Anthony
    January 30, 2008 at 15:34

    Drilling and mining companies always follow the same basic rule ~ they buy the local politicians before they lease the land.
    The only power that the average person has is to make the shareholders of these companies uncomfortable with the way their profits are being made.

    John in Salem

  8. 8 Ben
    January 30, 2008 at 15:36

    Dear bbcworldhavesay,

    Please let me have my say on the effect of mining activities in my area. The mining company in my area is Anglogold Ashanti-Iduapriem and they have their waste dump a meter away from my town Teberebie the dust and the noise their activities create is a hazard to the health of the inhabitants, besides they have their link road from my town to their work site and that also generate dust but they do not care to water it for once.Surprisingly the appropriate authorities like EPA and Government see nothing wrong with that even after persistent complain of Tb and other associated diseases.

    They do not also employ the inhabitants within their catchment area saying they are not educated but that is not the case, because there are a lot of educated people there, myself, I am educated. They employ their relatives and also collect bribe from people for employment.

    This is not just allegation because I know some workers who are not educated but are working in the company.Please BBC go to my town and see weather I am telling lies or not. Go Go and see their waste dump and my town.

    Thank you BBC for allowing me to have my say.
    Ben writes.

  9. January 30, 2008 at 15:37

    Here are some of the complaints that we have heard from miners and their
    The land doesn’t belong to the mines so why are they allowed to use it? because they can do it~
    (The government grants concessions which allow the mines to get the gold
    out of the ground and then repair the damage they have caused.)
    Why don’t locals get more jobs? that is very sad.
    Why doesn’t the high price of gold benefit us? because they do not want it to reached you!
    Why are there still incredibly poor areas right next to the wealthiest
    mines? they want you to say poor

    Dennis Young, Jr.
    Madrid, New York (United States of America)

  10. January 30, 2008 at 15:40

    I aportion all the blame on the colonialist who indirectly continued to take these resources even though they left, they work both hand in hand with Governments of Africa to take minirals at almost no cost ,take this example of Nigria Oil mining ,foreign companies corrupt these simple minded leaders for contracts, leaving the common man in shere poverty, it’s high time governments come up with their own companies to exploit these resources or these foreign companies should be offered contracts to constract schools,hospital,railway lines,Roads in the mining ares, even before exploitation.

  11. 11 kingsley,accra by email
    January 30, 2008 at 15:54

    I think that we need a more participatory approach to the way some allocations are done to some mining companies.

    1. Local indigenes should be taken through some months of sensitization on the operation and reorient he community on the fact that the company is there to help them and the country. This will

    a. Help forge good relationship with the company at the grassroots, many of these companies do this at a different level where the chief and opinion leaders are met and discussions on concerning the town is done but this may not be a true reflection of the community members. Some of these opinion leaders are either bribed or bought out of the community.

    b. This will also help the community and the mining agency draw up a community dev plan which will be representing of the community

    2. the mining legislation and other legislations drawn up during the colonial era should be revisited or amended for the common good.


  12. January 30, 2008 at 16:14

    Dearest Ros : Hi from Baghdad to Tarkwa ! I’m sure that today’s eddition of WHYS will be amazing as always…. Can natural resources benefit everyone ?! My dear friends in Ghana : Please come to Iraq and let the Iraqi experience in handling natural resources be your example : Iraq is considered one of the richest countries with oil and natural gas but still, ordinary Iraqis are struggling inorder to get oil, cooking gas and fuel… I do believe that the endemic massive corruption in all state levels may be the cause…. With my love ! Yours forever…. Lubna in Baghdad !

  13. January 30, 2008 at 16:19

    Yes if they have a government they can trust to administer the resources. Otherwise the situation in Niger Delta Nigeria could be replayed in Ghana. Ghanaians need to change their government.
    Nengak Daniel, in Nigeria

  14. 14 Kelsi
    January 30, 2008 at 16:21

    Hi all.

    I lived in Kumasi for a summer ,oh eons ago it seems now, and this is what I obseved: There was a lot of money flowing into the country. In my short time there I saw a lot of work being done to ‘modernise’ the country. The problem I saw was that the money that came in was matched by any money made going straight back out of the country and not to the people.

    The years may have changed and it may be a different resource but the story is still the same. The country, although very progressive and has a lot of positives will not be able to grow, if the people are not supported and communities are included in the profit of oil. It will continue to perpetuate the ago old story. If the government doesn’t start to share with the people and learn to be independent, if outsiders decide that Ghana isn’t worth it anymore, will they be able to stand on their own?

    I have to agree with Kingsley from Accra. I think and would hate to see it not live up to its full potential.

  15. 15 Virginia Davis
    January 30, 2008 at 16:26

    Hello Tarkwa from “the great Northwest” – one of our natural resources are our forests. Many of us fight to maintain “old growth” to maintain the wildlife even to maintain that trees that are harvested here are processed here by the people who live here. The current Administration who are partial to big business work against us. Greed and power are very present there with you as I read today’s entries – and here with us. Virginia in Portland, Oregon, USA

  16. 16 Brett
    January 30, 2008 at 16:45

    “the local dwelers are being evicted from the these oil reserves.”

    The wonderful misuse of ’eminent domain’ type systems. “Oh but it will be for the better of the community! See here!” While the capitalists put on charades for the local community and government of all of the potential revenue and good that it could bring the community.
    This is all theoretical of course, and none of these plans will actually be implemented.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  17. 17 brent
    January 30, 2008 at 16:57

    ive lived in ghana for the past 20 years and i can confortably say that our natural resources are being put to good use in ghana. the thing is that unlike nigeria where income generated from oil production far exceeds the revenue generated from cocoa, gold and timber in ghana, we still have an edge in terms of development. corruption in ghana is not that high and so alot of the resources are freed for development.

  18. 18 gary
    January 30, 2008 at 17:12

    Hello All,
    Share equally?! What? Have you folks not been paying attention?
    The few at the top live well off the sweat and property of the many. The world works this way. It does so because the “the many” are basically trusting, though naive, people. They try not to lie, to steal, or the kill. Those at top are not so limited. It is astonishing to me that one still may hear the silly saying “The cream rises to the top.” In my observation, cream rising to top of fresh milk must be the ONLY occurrence of spontaneous benefaction. In every other instance, it is the SCUM one finds uppermost.

  19. January 30, 2008 at 17:57

    Godwin Owusu of goldfields hospital Tarkwa:
    Why is it that minning companies doesnt want to develop the towns where thy are situated.Tarkwa has bad roads,no recreational center,bad football field and nothing to boast of by goldfields.

  20. January 30, 2008 at 18:08

    Africa natural resources are exploitated at the detriment of African themselves so let us be left alone to minne our available resources.
    Mohammed Konneh
    Monrovia, Liberia

  21. January 30, 2008 at 18:09

    BBC did the right thing by coming to Tarkwa to interact with the miners because they worked to sponsor the black stars. BBC Tarkwa is proud of you-Godwin owusu

  22. January 30, 2008 at 18:19

    African resources can only benefit Africans if our leaders are not corrupt or if the West and China stop to exploit us through our corrupt leaders. As a Sierra Leonean, I was amazed and shamed when I went to Botswana and found that diamond was a blessing for that country. I always felt diamonds are a curse to any country that have them in their soil.

    Fomba Kassoh
    Prin. Transportation Planner
    Operations Planning

  23. January 30, 2008 at 18:21

    The mines will be exploited like most resources in Africa by these vultures. Talks will be delayed till the resources have been exhausted and then there is nothing to talk about. The environment and the resources will be left there devasted and picked to the bone like a carcass.

    Noah Yeshey
    Portland Oregon

  24. 25 Joey
    January 30, 2008 at 18:21

    I’m from the Rocky Mountains in the US, which depends highly on it’s natural resources.
    Do people in Ghana think about the future generations? Or is life and survival very much for right now?

    People in the US don’t think about the next generation. Mining, oil gas, development started 100 years ago, and they didn’t plan ahead then, and are not planning ahead now either. Thank you.

    Joey Givan
    Colorado, USA

  25. January 30, 2008 at 18:28

    at the age of 15yrs in my perspective this issue must not be dicussed. i think from all i have head and seen, mining companies dont bring any vast difference in to our lives. rather they send the money generated back to their various countries and say their helping us.

  26. January 30, 2008 at 18:29

    Europeans and Asians do not have a more successful society because they are more intelligent than Africans. It is because from slavery until now they and corrupt African leader have been exploiting us.
    Alem, in Jamaica

  27. January 30, 2008 at 18:30

    Ghana’s minerals has always and will always make rich the expats and shareholders of smart multi-national mining companies.
    K.K. Accra.

  28. January 30, 2008 at 18:31

    In the last 6 years whilst working in the mining industry in Zambia I have watched 3 different Zambians take the opportunity to develop their skills that has secured them jobs in Australia, hence one of the benefits of mining investments in Africa.
    Kim from Kitwe

  29. January 30, 2008 at 18:32

    It would seem to me to me to be a no brainer that resources of a country should be controlled by the country and for the benefit of their citizens.

    San Francisco

  30. 31 Kwezi M. California
    January 30, 2008 at 18:36

    30 January 2008

    Questions : Do the local workers get paid in local currency as well as the expats… Do expats get paid their wages in foreign hard currency contra the local workers in local currency? If the later is so, then there is economic disparity at the local level. Expat foreign should be paid in local currency equal to locals-flat out or local should be paid in equivalent foreign currency.

    What are the companies performing extraction of resources doing for the health of locals in general, retired local workers specifically and maintaining the environment? Are their mining actions causing long term environment problems affecting other local economic activities? [i.e. food crop production, fisheries, animal grazing grounds, etc.

    African government should not be entering into foreign natural resources agreements without complete conscience of the national populace as well as specifically the local area populace. Also, any agreement in this day should be a 70:30 split where the foreign corporation is limited to no more than 30 percent. Of the 70 percent to the African nation, the local populace should be achieveing 20-25 percent of that 70 percent and the nation the rest. And it goes without saying transparency across the board in language that all stakeholders can comprehend needs to be the order of the day.

  31. January 30, 2008 at 18:39

    A serious warning to all Ghanians, especially those involved in the mininging industry: do not put your fate in the hands of the multinationals. If there’s anything we’ve learnt in Africa it is that it takes an effective and purposeful government to see that such gains are shared throughtout the communities.

    A concerned and cautious Nigerian,
    Washington DC

  32. January 30, 2008 at 18:41

    My name is Dorothy. We need policies that will ensure that the people benefit from our resources. We need also selfless leaders to make sure the policies are carried to the letter.

  33. January 30, 2008 at 18:45

    bbc can you answer this? if i were to have a mining company and i came to the uk to come and exploit some of your natural resources and in the process, i damage the houses in the area where i am mining. will your government allow me to continue my business? may be looking at it at from this point view wil go a long way to answer all the questions about this topic.

  34. January 30, 2008 at 18:49

    I did NOT hear the word: corruption!
    Max, Singapore

  35. 36 Edwin Kpedor
    January 30, 2008 at 18:50

    Its kind of pettty what most countries with resources go through. Read the theory of whether resources are curse or blessing to the economics which are endowed with them. I dont blame any body rather than the governments. They collaborate with exopatriates to rip the resources of the country. Lets talk about Ghana’s oil find. For me Ghana will be worst of when the exploration of oil begins. Lets look at this phenomenon carefully and dispationately. Edwin -Ghana

  36. January 30, 2008 at 18:51

    Much as mining can be hazardous to both the employees and population within close range to the mines, jobs are created within and outside the industry which is good for the country’s economy. I think the issue is for the governments to put measures that are in the interest of their people.
    Harold in Kampala, Uganda.

  37. January 30, 2008 at 18:57

    Mining agencies should stop being defensive lets face fact and try and correct our mistakes rather than being so defencive. Please lets look at it from the communities and not the co-operative point.

  38. January 30, 2008 at 18:58

    Dear World have your say.

    The multinationals unfortunately are exploiting the corrupt nature of the leaders of African nations. They pay a few Elites to oppress the larger portion of the community. They also help fuel the corruption in the African society. They do this by paying money or so called taxes to the leaders both local and national when they know that these taxes do not end up at the portions where the mineral is mined. If these companies want the communities where they operate to reap the dividend of the mineral resources, they will need to invest substantially in the area in which they work. It will surprise you that there is no motorable road to the first oil well location in Nigeria. (This well is located in Oloibiri in Ogbia local government area of the Country). I know a village in the Niger Delta of Nigeria where you can count about 32 wells in a little radius and they do not have electricity or portable water. Sad indeed.

    Nosa Idahosa (USA)

  39. January 30, 2008 at 19:03

    Outsiders have been exploiting Africa and its people for 1000s of years, why stop now?

    Adam in portland,Oregon

  40. January 30, 2008 at 19:04

    Multinationals are not a problem rather AFRICAN leaders & people . eg Zimbabwe .Musa

  41. 42 Will Rhodes
    January 30, 2008 at 20:02

    This is a difficult question.

    Yes they should benefit all, the government of the nation should stipulate that a certain portion, through taxation if needs be, has to go into education and healthcare for all in that nation. yet, we do note what Musa said – certain African leaders do not have the nations people forefront when they do such things as allocate who can do what.

    If it means that the multinationals have a heart and make sure this happens (very unlikely) then OK for them. But we, as a whole, must move away from natural resources – how that will help the people in the poorer nations we have to confront. In the long run, natural resources or not – we all have to help each other.

  42. 43 Chernor Jalloh
    January 30, 2008 at 20:40

    Our African leaders are the only people that are benifiting from the vast natural resources in Africa.
    And that is why they would do by all possible means to rig the elections to stay in power.Africa has got a clan of mafias operating alone and ignore the poor.I hate to hear when people say Africans live less than one dollar a day without making some differences to those in the top.
    The reason why Guineans took to the streets on 22th of January,2007 was due to the lion share which has always been the ugly share by an ailing president and his groups of mafias.
    The battle has not yet over,because there are still enemies of change in such a wealthy country that has discovered Uranium and gas in the country recently.
    My last word would be to those leaders who think they can enrich themseves,and their family only,they are wrong!

  43. January 31, 2008 at 09:55

    40 years gasoline, 70 years LPG, 150 years coal. What to use after that?
    Heard on a BBC program.

  44. 45 Josh from Oregon by email
    January 31, 2008 at 10:43

    My corner of the world has been ravaged by a “big business” government. Among others, the Bush administration has ignored science and devastated forest habitat by disallowing natural processes and implementing management practices focused on tree farm production. Look at the biscuit fire; they logged protected bruer spruce trees. I wonder what they intend to replant? I am sure it will look like a tree farm and not a forest.

  45. 46 Abrokwa by email
    January 31, 2008 at 10:44

    look minning agencies should stop being defensive lets face fact and try and correct our mistakes rather than being soo defencive. Please lets look at it from the communities and not the co-orperative point.

  46. 47 Lee Roy by email
    January 31, 2008 at 10:44

    Yes everyone can benefit from natural resources if those outside nations businesses who are sucking it up were fair.

    A portion of their profits could go directly to the citizens of that area’s residence, in a form of a quarterly check.

    The workers of those areas, of those projects, can live lives that are unexploited and receive honorable wages.

  47. January 31, 2008 at 17:09

    I suggest the mining companies here in ghana should send some of the unskilled workers to overseas or any where they think they can recieve the best skilled that will map up to their request of employment, so that after training they can also comes around and train more workers even that will serve as a plus to the company, because i dont shared that sentement that mining worker from ghana salary should be totally different from the same worker with same grade with the same experience else where since the world market price for gold is the same dollors, so i think the remedy to this problem is sponsarship in training so that the treatment in salary should be the same and this must comprimise with the head of state or goverment before the investors start mining,because afterall when the mining activities has come to end the native here in ghana is what is going to suffer most but not the foriegners
    John from Tarkwa.
    Thank you

  48. January 31, 2008 at 17:13

    inorder to stop the rampant rampage on africas wealth by multinationals,i think it has come to a point where the public needs to be taught and told more about these EPAs and other agreements between our countries and others.upto now, these agreements are left to be carried out and decided by politicians without the consent of the common man who happens to be the employer of the politician……..this is in referense to your last nights world have your say on bbc radio.

    david lulasa

  49. January 31, 2008 at 17:14

    its a misnomer .whatever be the natural resources it in some areas bring more miseries to the locality and to the entire region even if the government is not too strong or are facing civil strife .best examples are the african countries sierreleon ,nigeria etc ..in case od sieereleon it was natural diamonds unearthing and weak governments which have ruined sierreleon as a nation of warring factions and brutal attacks that world is still hearing from with mouth wide open ..how childsoldiers cut every part of human body on logwood last week was reported in bbc in charles taylor trial ..if only there was no diamond the people over there would have gone through their lives better than the present .now fear is the main concern there .in nigeria its oil which spelt doom for even nobellaurete writer to be hanged by military regime for speaking about the exploitation of the local people .this land and natural resources always the policy makers and the haves ultimately lays their hand on for their own benefits by picturising the developmental mantra .
    here in my own area in a place called kakkad people were promised 3 crop agriculture and fishing when a shutter is set up in kattampally region .the agricultural people of kakkad believed this developmental mantra and after 40 years now they have lost even their land of tilling and this vast tract of land now is being filled up by real estate mafias to sell for exhorbitantrates running into crores .if this was done on agricultural development recently in cochin ,kerala 10000 acres of land which was acquires in the name of industrial development now is with state government as industries first promised are closed and the government now is selling this prime land to private owners for crores and crores thus making the poor displaced in the name of development mere fools .
    if in africa and other countries its catastrophic proprtions in the name of development even costing their lives in developing countried its the other way round with promises the policy makers come ultimately the poor uprooted from their own homes.this is happenening in africa,latinand centralamerica, asia etc in the name of unearthing natural resources .barring few arab countries majority of the countries with natural resources are considering it as a curse rather than boon due to policymakers and stakeholders attrocity which have ruined the whole fabric of society whereever they are?


  50. 51 Dennis
    May 11, 2008 at 22:00


    Dennis from Madrid, U.S.A.

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