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Legal Risk Rating
Score: 45
Substantial Risk
For such a successful mining jurisdiction, the Ghanaian mining legislation no longer offers any guidance for other African countries to follow: lacking the basic right of open and equal access, the right to mine and imposing several onerous obligations upon the industry, Ghana needs to start afresh if it wishes to retain its historic success.

Regulatory Corruption Risk

Very High Corruption Potential

Corruption Exposure Risk

Low Corruption Risk

Legal Risk Rating

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Mining Overview Commentary plus sign



Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is located in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea, with Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo bordering. Due to its strong democratic political system, good governance and sound economic environment, Ghana is recognised as one of the most stable countries in West Africa and remains an interesting and attractive prospect for FDI.

According to the World Bank, Ghana has the thirteenth largest economy by GDP in Africa. It possesses rich natural resources and the Ghanaian mining industry is of considerable importance to the country and its economy, contributing around 5% of GDP in 2014 and earning a revenue of over $5 billion (USD). It is the tenth largest producer of gold in the world, the second largest in Africa and is among the world’s top 20 diamond producers. Bauxite and manganese are also primary commodities and the USGS (United States Geological Survey) reports that Ghana is also a producer of aluminium, cement, crude petroleum, petroleum products, salt and silver. Minerals account for over 30% of exports, with gold exports accounting for over 90% of that total.

Aside from the minerals industry, agriculture and manufacturing are the most significant sectors and Ghana is a world-leading producer and exporter of cocoa, with the cocoa industry contributing to around 15% of the country’s GDP.


The primary mineral legislation in Ghana is the Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (MMA), as amended by the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2010 and the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015, the Minerals and Mining (General) Regulations 2012 (MMGR) and the Mineral and Mining (Licensing Regulations) 2012 (MMLR). According to Section 1 of the MMA, minerals in Ghana are the property of the Republic and all rights and ownership of minerals vests in the President in trust for the people of Ghana. Other relevant legislation includes the Income Tax Act 2015 (ITA); the Local Governance Act 2016 (LGA); and the Minerals Development Fund Act 2016 (MDFA).

The Minerals Commission Act 1993 (MCA) established the Minerals Commission (MINCOM), a government agency responsible for the regulation and management of the utilisation of mineral resources in Ghana. Duties of MINCOM include: investigating the background of applicants; processing applications for mineral rights; recommending grants of rights (or otherwise) to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources (Minister); liaising with governmental agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)) to ensure mining companies are operating according to the terms and requirements of title; and advising the Minister on various policy matters in relation to Ghana’s mineral resources. Section 5(1) of the MMA grants the Minister power to negotiate, grant, revoke, suspend or renew minerals, in accordance with the terms of the MMA and on the recommendation of MINCOM.


A mineral right cannot be granted to a person unless the person is a body corporate formed under the Companies Code 1963 or the Incorporated Private Partnerships Act 1962. Mineral rights applications are submitted to MINCOM and must be accompanied by details of financial and technical resources, proposals for local employment, budgets and a work programme (ss. 11(a)-(d), MMA). Unless further information is requested, MINCOM will provide their recommendation on an application for a mineral right to the Minister within 90 days of receipt of the application (s. 12, MMA). The Minister will then, within 60 days of receipt of MINCOM’s recommendation, notify the applicant on whether their application has been approved or rejected (s. 13(1), MMA).

Types of mining rights granted and administered under the MMA include:

  • Reconnaissance Licence (RL) – grants the holder the exclusive right to carry out reconnaissance work within the reconnaissance area for the mineral to which the RL applies (s. 32(1), MMA). A RL does not include drilling or excavation activities and is restricted to a maximum of 5,000 contiguous blocks (ss. 21 and 32(3), MMA). A RL may be granted for an initial term of 12 months (s. 31(2), MMA). If a RL holder wishes to renew its licence, it must do so three months before expiration by applying to the Minister for an extension. Generally, extensions will only be granted for a further 12 months (ss. 33(4) and (5), MMA). A RL is subject to fees of US$15,000 on application, plus an additional US$15,000 for any renewal.


  • Prospecting Licence (PL) – grants the holder the right to explore within the PL area for the minerals to which the PL applies (s. 37(1), MMA). An application for a PL must include a Programme of Prospecting Operations (PPO) for approval by the Minister (ss. 11(c) and 36(1), MMA). The PL holder must commence prospecting operations within three months and must carry out prospecting operations in accordance with the PPO (ss. 37(2)(a)-(i) MMA). A PL is restricted to maximum of 750 contiguous blocks and may be granted for an initial term of three years (ss. 34(2)-(3) MMA). If a PL holder wishes to renew their licence, they must do so three months before expiration by applying to the Minister for an extension. Extensions may be granted for a period of up to three years and are subject to a 50% compulsory reduction of the PL area (ss. 35(1), 38(1), MMA). A PL is subject to fees of US$20,000 on application, plus an additional US$20,000 for any renewal.


  • Mining Lease (ML) – grants the holder the right to excavate and remove minerals for which the ML relates within the licence area (ss. 46(a)-(e), MMA). RL and PL holders will have priority to apply for a ML over the area and minerals to which their respective licence relates (ss. 39(1)-(2), MMA). A ML may also be granted upon application by a non-RL or non-PL holder (ss. 40(1)-(2), MMA). An application for a ML must include a Programme of Mining Operations (PMO) for approval by the Minister (s. 111(d), MMA). A ML is restricted to a maximum of three contiguous blocks and may be granted for an initial term of 30 years (ss. 41(1)-(2), MMA). If a ML holder wishes to renew their licence, they must do so three months before expiration by applying to the Minister for an extension. A ML is subject to fees of US$100,000 on application, plus an additional US$100,000 for any renewal.


Mining rights cannot be assigned, mortgaged or transferred without the approval of the Minister.


The government has the right to acquire a 10% “free carried interest” (s. 43(1), MMA) and royalties must be paid at the prescribed rate (s. 25, MMA (as amended)). Mining rights holders must also pay an Annual Mineral Right Fee (AMRF) to MINCOM. The AMRF (per cadastral unit (21 hectares)) ranges between:

  • RL: US$10 - US$16 in the first year and then US$15 - US$20 in the second year;
  • PL: between US$20 - US$32 from the first to third year and then US$40-US$50 from the fourth to sixth year;
  • ML: US$700 in the first and second year and then US$1000 between the third and 13th year (s. 24, MMA).


Recruitment and training provisions apply and the MMA contains terms relating to the preferential use of materials and products made in Ghana (ss. 50 and 105, MMA). In addition, the MDFA requires that a local community development scheme be established in respect of each mining community to facilitate socio-economic development (s. 17 and 18, MDFA).

Prior to the commencement of activities, the necessary approvals and permits from the Forestry Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency must be obtained (s. 18, MMA). Mining and prospecting operations require an environmental permit (EP) from the EPA under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1994 (EPA Act) and the Environmental Assessment Regulations 1999 (EA Reg.) (s. 2(j), EPA Act; s. 1, EA Reg.). Additionally, the holder of a PL or ML is required to obtain an Exploration Operating Permit or a Mining Operating Permit from the Inspectorate Division of MINCOM prior to the commencement of any operations (ss. 6(1), 8(1), Minerals and Mining (Health, Safety and Technical) Regulations 2012). Under the LGA, mining operations are defined as physical developments and must obtain an additional permit from the District Planning Authority before the operations can begin (ss. 91(1) and 234, LGA). The District Planning Authority may levy a development charge in respect of such permit (s. 92(1), LGA).

The holder of a mineral right has the right to enter land for purposes of its work (ss. 32(2), 37(1) and 46, MMA). The occupier of land within a mineral right area may retain the right to graze livestock upon or cultivate the surface of land, so long as their actions do not interfere with the mining operations (s. 72(3), MMA), and such persons are entitled to compensation for any loss, damage or deprivation of the use and enjoyment of the land (ss. 73, 74 MMA).


See Ghana – Environmental Overview Commentary.

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Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is located on West Africa's Gulf of Guinea bordered by Burkina Faso to the north, Côte d’Ivoire to the west and Togo to the east, with the Gulf of Guinea to the south. The country’s landscape consists mainly of large low plains with the Akwapin-Togo mountain ranges located on the eastern border and the forested plateau of the Ashanti Uplands and the Kwahu Plateau found in the southwest and south-central region. The country is home to a number of large rivers, including the White Volta River and Black Volta River. Formed by the Akosombo Dam, Lake Volta, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, lies in the southeast of Ghana.

The country has a tropical climate; with warm and dry weather on the southeast coast, hot, dry weather in the north and hot and humid weather in the southwest. Land clearances for agriculture and poaching and logging have caused considerable damage to Ghana’s flora and fauna. Nevertheless trees such as the African mahogany, African whitewood and silk cotton can be found in the forest region of the south, while acacia trees, shea butter trees and baobabs are common in the north. Lions, leopards and elephants can still be found in small areas of the country and hippopotamus are often found in the Lake Volta region. Ghana has sought to protect its biodiversity via national parks, forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries and numerous government policies aimed at preserving the diminishing animal and plant life.

Environmental challenges in Ghana include droughts, deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution and illegal poaching.


The main piece of environmental legislation in Ghana is the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1994 (EPA Act), which is supported by the Environmental Assessment Regulations 1999 (EIA Regulation). The EPA Act provides for the establishment of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which consists of several divisions, each with numerous departments. The Environmental Assessment and Audit Department (EAAD) of the Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Division (ECED) is responsible for overseeing and managing the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. According to the EPA Act, the EPA is managed on a day-to-day basis by the Executive Director who administers the approval of environmental permits and EIAs, while a 13 member Board of Directors (appointed by the President) supervises the EPA’s overall operations.

Pursuant to Section 12 of the EPA Act, the EPA may, by notice in writing, require a person responsible for an undertaking or activity, which, in the opinion of the Board, has, or is likely to have, an adverse impact on the environment to submit an EIA. In such a case, the EPA is to notify the relevant ministry that has responsibility for issuing any licence, permit or approval to withhold such issuance or approval pending completion of its assessment of the EIA. In the case of mining, this could be applicable to any mineral rights application, including a reconnaissance licence application.


Schedules 1 and 2 of the EIA Regulation set out the undertakings or activities that require registration under the regulation and an environmental permit and, in addition, those undertakings or activities that require an EIA. In respect of registration and an environmental permit, Schedule 1 indicates that “metal mines” and “non-metal mines” are included, as well as quarries involving more than 10 hectares. Among these projects, those requiring an EIA are projects involving: 

  • Non-ferrous smelting of aluminium, copper and others producing at least 50 tonnes / day;
  • Mining and processing where the mining lease covers an area in excess of 10 hectares; and
  • Quarries within 3 kilometres of residential and certain other centres.


Thus, prospecting activities do not require an EIA.

An environmental permit must be obtained before the activity or undertaking is commenced (s. 2(j), EPA Act and s. 1, EIA Regulation). To obtain an environmental permit, the below steps are followed:

  • Registration of the Undertaking: Applicants are required to complete an Environmental Assessment Registration Form and submit it to the EPA head office with a site plan signed by a licensed surveyor (s. 1, EIA Regulation).


  • Screening: The project shall be screened based on location, size, and likely output, technology used, concerns of the general public and other factors. To assist in screening, the applicant must submit a report outlining, among other things, anticipated human and environmental impacts and any alternatives. The EPA will then issue a report indicating that the application is approved, objected to, or requires a preliminary environmental report or an EIA. Screening takes place within 25 days of the application (see ss. 5-7, EIA Regulation).


  • Environmental Report: If a preliminary environmental report is requested, then the report is prepared, accepted and an environmental permit issued. A preliminary environmental report is considered inappropriate where the EPA “is satisfied that a significant adverse environmental impact is likely to result from the activities of the undertaking” (s. 9, EIA Regulation).


  • EIA Terms of Reference / Scoping Report: Where an EIA is required, the applicant will be required to submit a scoping report outlining the proposed terms of reference that the EIA will address. Within 25 days, the EPA will respond as to whether or not the scoping report is accepted (see s. 13, EIA Regulation).


  • Consultation / EIA Draft Submission: Once approved, the scoping study will be required to be notified to affected Ministries and the general public. The EIA is then produced in draft and delivered to the EPA and a public hearing may be required where “there is great adverse public reaction” to the proposal, the proposal involves the resettlement of people or the EPA considers that it could have extensive and far reaching impacts (see ss. 15-17, EIA Regulation). Following this process, the EIA is amended as appropriate. Where a public hearing is held, the prescribed time (50 working days) for EPA actions and a decision on the application may be extended (see Part 5. Guidelines For Obtaining Environmental Permits For Large Scale And Significantly Impacting Undertakings).


  • Acceptance of EIA: If the EIA is then finalised and acceptable to the EPA, it will be accepted. If not acceptable, it may be declined or the EPA may require further studies to be conducted or such amendments to be made as acceptable to the EPA (see ss. 18-19, EIA Regulation).


  • Environmental Permit Issuance: An environmental permit is then communicated to the applicant within a further period of 90 days (see s. 20, EIA Regulation).


An Environmental Permit is valid for 18 months, effective from the date of the issue of the permit (s. 21(1), EIA Regulation). Where an undertaking (in respect of which a preliminary environmental report or an EIA is approved) commences activities after obtaining an environmental permit, it is required to obtain an environmental certificate (EC) from the EPA within 24 months from the date of commencement of operations (s. 22, EIA Regulation).

The EPA also administers the AKOBEN program, which is an environmental performance rating and disclosure initiative. Under the AKOBEN initiative, the environmental performance of mining operations is assessed using a five colour-rating scheme. The five colours are gold, blue, green, orange and red, indicating environmental performance ranging from excellent to poor. Ratings measure the environmental performance of companies based on their day-to-day operations once they have successfully cleared their EIAs and obtained their environmental permit to operate. Ratings are annually disclosed to the general public and the media, aiming to strengthen public awareness and participation. Ghana’s AKOBEN programme therefore complements the EIA process and serves as a monitoring and verification program, ensuring that miners adhere to their Environmental Impact Statement and follow environmental regulations on a continual basis.

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