The Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) on Wednesday, urged government to involve communities to be affected by mining in decisions concerning the extraction of mineral resources to ensure sustainable development.
It said involving affected communities in such decisions was key, not only to empower them in terms of the details of contracts signed, but enable them to make inputs that would ensure their welfare through the equitable disbursement of the revenue accrued, and also insist on their right to sustainable livelihood and the expansion of infrastructure for their benefit.
Mr Benjamin Boakye, the Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy, addressing a national level stakeholders’ forum on mineral extraction for sustainable development in Accra on Wednesday, said it was important for the country to draw lessons from the past to prevent a repetition.
He said in the past government signed off contracts to foreigners and failed to look at linkages involving local suppliers of the chain whose skills were not developed enough to contribute to the mining industry.
He said these decisions had over the years remained centralized, leaving affected communities with very little or no benefits at all, as their lack of knowledge about, and involvement in such contracts left them with no power to demand for their rights to socio-economic development.
He said the mistakes of the past in the mining sectors of the country had led to the massive impoverishment of affected communities, leaving the people with no sustained livelihood or improved infrastructure for development.
He cited some of the reasons why Ghana though endowed with numerous mineral resources, was still wallowing in poverty, as poor planning for the industry, politics-led and lack of transparency of these decisions, and the failure to plan for the appropriate use of revenues accrued from the resources, with the assumption that they would automatically translate into development.
Besides, the country had failed to build local industries for processing its own raw materials, builds local capacities in terms of skills, plan for the appropriate infrastructure such as electricity, water and roads, for specific mineral resources, and did not insist that investors carried out such project for the benefit of the affected communities.
Mr Boakye said leveraging on Ghana’s new mineral resources for development, government must invest in building modern technologies, ensure value addition, skills enhancement and build infrastructure to attract jobs and sustain livelihood of communities in mining areas.
Ms Pauline Anaman, the Head of the Policy Unit of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy, said the ACEP, in partnership with the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), had completed baseline and fiscal benchmarking study on the Sheini Iron Ore deposits project in the Northern Region.
The project, she said, involved the exploration of iron ore in commercial quantities, and had the potential to expand the country’s economic progress and had trickling down effects of social progress and sustainable development for its people.
She said it had therefore become imperative to understand the extent of fiscal impacts that the Sheini iron ore project was likely to bring.
Ms Anaman said based on findings which included a holistic assessment of the minerals sector, the Centre had made some strong recommendations to government for its consideration, to ensure equitable distribution of revenue and the maximum benefit of the people in these communities.