Mining was Ghana's leading industry in 2002, and gold was its top export commodity, followed by bauxite, manganese ore, and diamonds. Ghana was Africa's second-largest gold producer, behind South Africa, and was the continent's third-largest producer of aluminum metal and manganese ore. In 2000, mineral exports were $984 million, or 51% of total exports (excluding smuggled gold and diamonds); gold accounted for $702 million. Extensive smuggling of gold, the top export of the Gold Coast, and of diamonds through the years has cut into government revenues, as did weak international prices in 1999 and 2000 and high energy costs. In 2000, Ghana also produced trioxide arsenic, hydraulic cement, kaolin, salt, sand and gravel, silica sand, silver, dimension stone, and limestone and lime for processing gold ore.
Gold production in 2000, not including smuggled or undocumented production, was 72,080 kg, down from its peak the previous year, 79,946, and up from 54,662 in 1997. The drop was attributed to the closure in 2000 of the Teberebie Mine, which ranked third in the country in 1999, with 8,573 kg mined, and of surface mining operations at the Obuasi complex, the largest producer in the country, resulting in a drop in production from 27,537 kg in 1998 to 19,937 in 2000 through its open-pit and underground operations. Also closing were the Prestea underground mine, in 1998; the Asikam alluvial mine, in 2000; and oxide mining at Bogosu, to be phased out in 2001. Recent start-ups, however, included the second, third, and fourth top producers in 2000, all begun in 1998—the Tarkaw open-pit mine yielded 11,272 kg (full capacity of 15,500 was planned for 2003; Tarkaw's underground operation ceased production in 2000); the Damang, 9,881; and the Bibiani, 8,513. Obuasi and Bibiani were owned by Ashanti Goldfields Co. Ltd, which was listed on stock exchanges in New York, Toronto, Australia, and Zimbabwe. Its seven gold mines in Ghana, Guinea, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe produced 54,035 kg, of which 66% was from Ghana, compared to 78% in 1999, and it reported measured and indicated resources of 187.3 million tons at an average grade of 4.36 grams per ton of gold, of which Obuasi's four mines in Ghana accounted for 56 million tons at a grade of 10 grams per ton of gold. Development of Normandy Ghana Gold Ltd.'s new Yamfo-Sefwi gold deposit, with 75.7 million tons of measured, indicated, and inferred resources, could see national production returning to the 76–79-ton range between 2002 and 2004. However, known and economic gold resources were being depleted at the Bogosu, Damang, Iduapriem, and Obotan mines. A 15%–25% increase in the world gold price could stimulate new exploration and access to lower grade ores and extend the life of the mines.
Production of processed manganese ore, all from the Nsuta-Wassaw open-pit mine, was 896,000 tons in 2000, surpassing totals of the peak production years in the 1970s, and up from 638,937 in 1999, 437,000 in 1997, and 217,000 in 1995. Manganese production, begun in 1916, was controlled by the US-owned African Manganese Co. until 1975, when the governmentowned National Manganese Corp. took over. Only one relatively small bauxite deposit was worked, at Awaso. The site has been in production since 1941 by Ghana Bauxite Company (20% government owned); reserves have been estimated to last 30 years, and other ore reserves nearby were adequate to support mine life for a century. In 2000, production amounted to 504,000 tons, the same figure as in 1997, and up from 355,000 in 1999; export capacity was to be 1 million tons by 2003. Akwatia, owned by a joint UK- and Ghanaian-government company, was the only formal operating diamond mine. The majority of diamonds were recovered by artisanal miners from alluvial and raised terrace gravel workings in the Birim Valley. Total production in 2000, not including unreported artisanal production, amounted to 920,000 carats, up from 680,000 in 1999 and 809,000 in 1998; total formal-sector production peaked in the 1970s, at more than 2.5 million carats.
Through privatization programs in the 1990s, the government greatly reduced its once-dominant stake in cement and gold companies; it has maintained controlling interest in Ghana Consolidated Diamonds Ltd. Efforts to attract foreign investment in recent years have brought a wide range of companies from Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which held controlling interests in most of the mines in Ghana. The issuance of reconnaissance and prospecting licenses by the Ghana Minerals Commission dropped from 62 in 1997 to 4 in 2000, as a result of the decrease in exploration risk capital and the weakening gold price, thus prompting the Ghana Chamber of Mines to ask for review of the 1986 Mining Law to increase incentives to foreign investors.