The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Chamber of Mines (GCM), Sulemanu Koney, has underscored the need for the Minerals Development Fund (MDF) to be refocused on providing economic opportunities for residents of mining communities to ensure sustainable livelihoods for the people.
He said six years after its establishment, there was ample evidence that the fund had made an enormous impact on mining communities in terms of education, health, water and sanitation and other facilities.
Going forward, he said, what was prudent was for attention to be turned towards supporting mining communities with economic ventures that would position the people to make sustainable livelihoods.
"It is important that we look at our health and the education of our children; but over and above that, our fathers, mothers, uncles and sisters need employment. We have to be looking at what the economic opportunities are within mining communities where the MDF can support to enhance livelihoods and better the lives of the people," he said.
Mr Koney made the call when he spoke with the Daily Graphic during an inspection tour undertaken by the governing board of the MDF of some projects constructed by the MDF in the Ashanti, Western and Western North regions last Thursday.
The board members visited projects that had been undertaken by local management committees (LMCs) at municipal and district assemblies, including Tarkwa-Nsuaem, Ellembelle, Mpohor, Obuasi, Obuasi East, Adansi North, Amansie Central, Amansie West, Amansie South and Akrofuom.
The team, led by the Chairman of the MDF Board, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, inspected work on eight legacy projects at the University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa (UMaT), school blocks, toilet facilities, community centres, police buildings, office complexes and other facilities.
They also inaugurated two LMCs at Mpohor and Amansie Central.
Mr Koney, who was impressed by the level of investment the MDF had made in mining communities over the past six years, observed that should the fund be properly targeted, the age-old narrative that mining did not benefit mining communities would be reversed.
"Having seen the infrastructure projects that have been established through the MDF, I am so impressed. Going forward, we will have to go to the drawing board and see how we can make the fund better than it is now," he said.
He observed that besides the projects that had been established, it was important that the LMCs explored investment opportunities in projects that would ensure sustainable livelihoods.
For instance, he said, it was important for the LMCs to look at how to take advantage of the presence of the mines within the communities to empower the people economically, so that they could supply goods and services to the mines.
The GCM CEO, who is also a member of the MDF Board, explained that host communities could leverage the high standards of the mines to build local capacity to be at the cutting edge of the supply of goods and services to mining entities.
"Trust me, that will be the launching pad for them to actually go into supplying other clients whose standards may be high.
“The unique selling proposition of a community may be that it supplies goods to Anglogold Ashanti and its standards are high; and because are standards are high, the community can take that as an opportunity to go to other mining companies and say because I supply to Anglogold Ashanti, I can supply to you," he said.
For his part, the Administrator of the MDF, Dr Norris Hammah, said aside from the infrastructure that had been provided by the fund, it was important to invest in human resource development in host communities.
In that regard, he urged the LMCs to consider giving scholarships to residents of mining communities to pursue further education, especially in engineering and other key sectors.
He said the MDF Secretariat would organise capacity-building workshops to train LMCs on the prioritisation of projects, sustainability and other aspects of project management.