Ghana, Africa's second biggest producer of gold has failed to ratify the ILO Convention 176 (Safety in the Mines Convention) and its recommendations for the past 16 years.
The Convention, like most of the ILO Conventions is a product of tripartite negotiation involving the social partner (governments, employers and labour) at the international level at the ILO of which Ghana was a participant.
The Convention is a reflection of balanced interests of the major stakeholders in the global mining industry.
The Convention was adopted on 22nd June 1995 at the 82nd Session of the ILO General Conference at Geneva, Switzerland. The Safety and Health in Mines Convention, 1995 (No.176) is central to achieving decent work in an industry, which has occupational safety and health as its main challenge.
Convention 176 provides the necessary basis for a sustainable mining industry that ensures that its workers return from their workplaces safe and healthy, and that companies can attract and retain workers.
Under the Convention, the employer is mandated to assess all risks and deal with it in the following order of priority: eliminate the risk, control the risk at source, minimize the risk by means that include the design of safe work systems, and in so far as the risk remain provide for the use of personal protective equipment, having regard to what is reasonable, practicable and feasible, and to good practice and the exercise of due diligence.
America, South Africa, Australia and few other countries have Mine Health and Safety Acts with well structured institutions created out of these laws which police their industry, publish data and statistics on health and safety and report to government and other industry players.
Addressing the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMWU) in Accra over the weekend, the General Secretary of the GMWU, Mr. Prince William Ankrah fumed that: "it is shameful that our governments since 1996 have reneged on their promises and pledges to ratify the ILO Convention 176 (Safety in the Mines Convention) and its recommendations".
He continued: "We have on many platforms engaged and espoused the relevance of the Convention to our Ghanaian situation. It is our conviction that the Convention remains the surest safegaurd for mining safety in our sector and no amount of improvisation in whatever form by our governments can negate its relevance. Indeed the intransigent posture of our governments on the ratification process is a clear manifestation of their preparedness to mortgage the health and safety of the mineworkers."
Touching on other challenges of the mining industry, Mr Ankrah noted that over the last six years, GMWU has insisted on double digit pay rise in addition to gains made due to the US dollar indexed salaries.
GMWU is further committed to our quest to engaging the industry's leaders in its quest to attain excellence in operations. This remains the surest way that all stakeholders can get their fair share of the cake, he added.
The General Secretary assured: "The Union is also willing to partner the Chamber of Mines, Government and other internal actors to develop a comprehensive framework in the area of sustainable livelihood in the mining economies before the industry's economic fortunes change due to ore reserve depletion".