Mining as an economic activity must first aim at improving the livelihoods of the indigenes who rightly own and live with the mineral resources by ensuring equitable distribution of mineral wealth is prioritized in national and international minerals and mining laws and policies.
For the realization of this aim of mining as an economic activity, the Africa Mining Vision and Action Plan of the Africa Union (AU) advocates the use of Africa’s mineral resources to reduce the continent’s poverty and accelerate its social and economic development.
Also, the ECOWAS Minerals Development Policy seeks to create a mining environment that is very responsive to sustainable development. In line with the ECOWAS Mineral Development Policy, the Minerals and Mining Policy of Ghana (2014) seeks to ensure mining makes a significant contribution to sustainable development by ensuring that the country secures the full economic and social benefits that mining promises in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. The policy puts emphasis on fair and equitable sharing of revenues generated from the communities. The policy specifically states that “the rights and interests of landowners and local communities regarding benefits accruing from the use of land shall be guaranteed during the entire mining process”. The policy further makes it clear that “sustainable livelihood programmes to improve the economic conditions of communities shall form an integral part of the planning for any mining activity.
Despite these good policy frameworks of the Africa Union, ECOWAS, and Ghana, it is regrettable to note that the policies have not impacted much on the lives of mining communities in the country. What is visible in mining communities across the country is extreme poverty, deprivation and general under-development. Instead of contributing to the social and economic development of communities, mining is contributing to violent conflicts, pollution, and many other social vices.
Realising the inequitable distribution of mineral wealth and the worsening socio-economic conditions of the lives of the people in mining communities, the Ghanaian Parliament enacted the Minerals Development Fund Act, 2016, Act 912 under which the establishment of the Mining Community Development Scheme (MCDS) is required.
The Mining Community Development Scheme seeks to “facilitate socio-economic development of communities in which mining activities are undertaken and that are affected by mining operations”
Sources of funds for the Scheme are stated in Section 18 of the Act as mining royalties being 20% of Minerals Development Fund (MDF) at the national level, donations made by mining companies and related business entities and finally grants, donations, gifts and other voluntary contributions.
Management of the scheme shall be by a Local Management Committee which, according to Section 19 of the Act comprises the District Chief Executive, the traditional ruler of the mining community, one representative of the District Office of the Minerals Commission, a mining company, identified women’s group and identified youth group in the community.
Additionally, the government further introduced Community Mining Programme to promote community participation in the mining industry aimed at increasing communities’ share of the mineral wealth and other social and economic benefits that mining promises for improved livelihoods. Strongly determined to ensure mining activities under the Community Mining Programme are carried out in a very responsible and sustainable manner , the governed has already mobilized and trained a good number of interested members of mining communities across the country to acquire the needed technical skills for a successful programme.
The passage of the Minerals Development Fund Act, 2016 and the introduction of the Community Mining Programme provide fine opportunities for communities and civil society groups working in mining communities to engage with relevant state institutions to demand the establishment of the Mining Community Development Scheme and effective implementation of the Community Mining Programme. This will undoubtedly bring in significant amount of resources to effectively finance sustainable livelihoods programmes for socio-economic transformation of the mining communities to address poverty and deprivation.
It is in the light of this that the Coalition of Social Movements on Mining (CSMM) in the Upper East Region of Ghana has taken the lead to champion the issue by raising critical voice on the need to establish the Mining Community Development Scheme (MCDS) in every mining community in Ghana particularly communities in Talensi District of the Upper East Region.
Considering the huge socio-economic development opportunities that MCDS seeks to create for improved livelihoods of poor and disadvantaged people in mining communities, the Northern Patriots in Research and Advocacy (NORPRA) is adding its voice to the call on the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Minerals Commission and the District Assemblies concerned not only to provide start-up capital for trained community members to engage in the community mining programme but to also facilitate the establishment of the Mining Community Development Schemes in all mining communities in Ghana particularly those in Talensi district. This, in the view of NORPRA, will contribute significantly to reducing poverty and hunger for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Bismark Adongo Ayorogo