The local economy in Tarkwa in the Western region risks collapse following the expected laying off of more than 2,000 workers of the Goldfields company, researchers have predicted.
Richard Kojo Elimah of the Social Impact Studies said the standard of living in these mining communities could witness a sharp decline because the affected workers are largely the main breadwinners.
He said mining communities already have an “exceptionally high” level of unemployment because the mines attract immigrants and job-seekers from neighbouring regions who come hoping for a better life.
The layoffs will, therefore, worsen an already fragile social life, he said.
The researcher said communities in Tarkwa are expected to follow the same fate of decline as suffered by those in Obuasi after Anglo Gold Ashanti laid off 5,000 workers.
He said following that lay-off, there was an observable upsurge in crime such as car-snatching, robberies and a general sense of insecurity.
The social life in Tarkwa township is heavily tied to the fortunes of the mines. Families, small business owners, district assemblies depend on the mine workers for care, customers, and taxes.
Even the good schools consider the mine workers who are among the highest paid as important clients. But with the sack imminent, these workers are likely to withdraw their wards from these schools, Richard Elimah said.
Some of the employees at Goldfields pay as much as 2,000 cedis as income tax, he said to demonstrate the revenue losses the state can expect.
The researcher faults government for the prevailing social tension in Tarkwa. While mining companies have a plan to mine for profit, the government has no plan for developing Tarkwa and other mining towns.
The government has once again “woefully failed” to learn from the Obuasi crisis. Although mining has gone on in Obuasi since 1897, the communities there are severely impoverished.
He said socio-economic life in Obuasi collapsed when the mine closed down.
“We put all our eggs in one basket and unfortunately the one holding the basket dropped it”, he said.
The researcher urged the government to lead in the diversification of economic life in mining communities. It must encourage agriculture and entrepreneurship, he suggested indicating that ultimately the mines do close down.