Ghana has regained its position as the number one producer of gold in Africa, replacing South Africa after a significant fall in output hit the country last year, the Ghanaian Times reports.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, said in a press statement that gold production from the biggest mining companies increased from 2.2 million ounces in 2012 to 3.08 million ounces (oz) in 2022. In the smaller-scale sector, output rose from 98,001oz to 655,656oz over the last decade.

In 2022, the country’s total gold output totalled 3.74 million ounces, up from 2.82 million ounces for the previous year.

Jinapor said that the increase in production was due to the policies and programmes implemented by the government and the Ghana Chamber of Mines. In his statement, he added that the revival of mining companies AngloGold Ashanti Obuasi Mine and the Bibiani Mine following an intervention by President Akufo-Addo also contributed to the increased output.

The AngloGold mine increased its gold production by 132% in 2022 compared with the previous year. The Bibiani mine, which began its first gold production for seven years in 2022, yielded output of more than 52,000oz for 2022.

The expansion of existing mines and a reduction of the withholding tax rate on unprocessed gold by small-scale miners further contributed to Ghana’s new pole position.

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Jinapor said that gold production in the country is expected to increase significantly in the next two years, aided by the expected completion of three new large-scale mining projects; the Cardinal Resources Namdini in the Upper East Region, the Azumah Resources in the Upper West Region and Newmont’s Ahafo North project in the Ahafo Region.

The statement added that Ghana’s Government will remain committed to gold mining as a serious contributor to the country’s local economy.

“[The] government is grateful to the Ghana Chamber of Mines for their collaboration and partnership in achieving this feat,” Jinapor commented.

“[The] government through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources will continue to work with the Chamber, and all stakehold­ers, in the spirit of transparency, integrity and utmost good faith, to ensure optimal benefits from our mineral resources, particu­larly through value addition,” he added.

The country’s move up to first place in gold production comes as it battles with protests and outrage over illegal mining operations. At the beginning of this month, protests erupted after 300 illegal gold miners at the AngloGold mine remained underground due to fears of arrest. Al Jazeera released footage showing heavily armed police officers shooting at crowds of protestors as clashes turned violent.