The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) has pledged total support for the process of building consensus and working with other stakeholders for the enactment of Regulations for the Minerals Development Fund Act, 2016 (Act 921).

Mr. Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, who made the pledge in a key note address delivered on his behalf at a National Conference on the Minerals Development Fund Act in Accra on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, noted that Regulations or a Legislative Instrument had become necessary as a guide for the smooth implementation of the law and for the transparent and efficient operation of the Mineral Development Fund (MDF).

Mr. Asomah-Cheremeh noted that apart from the absence of Regulations – which has been identified as a key challenge to the transparent and efficient implementation of Act 921 – the law itself needed to be amended because it was fraught with ambiguities which could not be properly redressed by Regulation.

Act 921, the Minister said, would, therefore, require amendments and urged the Board of MDF to pursue that line of action.

In his remarks at the opening of the conference, Ms Emelia Ayipio Asamoah, Country Director, World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and Project Co-ordinator, West Africa Governance and Economic Sustainability in Extractive Areas (WAGES), explained that Act 921 was passed in an attempt to regulate mineral royalties and to prioritize financial resources for the direct benefit of mining communities by setting aside a proportion of royalties for local development projects, specifically in mining host communities.

Ms Asamoah noted that although the objectives for the establishment of the MDF were well-intended, evidence from mining enclaves such as Obuasi, Tarkwa, Prestea and Akwatia, among others, had shown that the operation of the Fund encountered major obstacles.

She said communities still lacked basic infrastructure including access to good roads and potable water, adding that the utilisation of revenues from mineral resources, over the past decades, had not been able to address the basic needs and problems associated with mining.

Furthermore, she said, various reports by the Ghana Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) attested to the challenges surrounding the utilisation of mineral royalties at the local level – largely resulting from weak alignment between revenues collected and utilisation, weak planning around mineral revenues, delays in the release of mineral royalties by central government, inadequate systems to support traceability and accountability and the attendant challenges associated with resource revenues in general.

Ms Asamoah said the WAGES Project, therefore, intervened to break the vicious cycle where local people, especially women and the youth, were excluded from the benefits of mining investments by supporting efforts to ensure that the MDF Act was effectively implemented in order that revenues from mining investments were adequately managed to stimulate economic diversification and for national and local governments to better respond to the socio-economic needs of their populations.

She said under the WAGES Project, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) was funding a six-year project (2016 to 2022) being implemented through a partnership between WUSC, the Centre for International Studies and Co-operation (CECI) and the Centre for Extractives and Development, Africa (CEDA), with the objective of accelerating Ghana’s decentralisation agenda, adding that efforts to ensure that the MDF Act was effectively implemented was within the mandate of the WAGES Project.

In a statement, Mad. Esther Happy Edjeani, Board Chairperson, MDF, underscored the importance of guidelines on the disbursement and use of mineral revenues and gave the assurance that the Board would ensure that mining revenues were applied for the benefit of the communities where minerals were exploited.

Mad. Edjeani said in pursuit of that objective, the Board would critically examine the proposals of the Multi-Stakeholder Technical Working Group (TWG) for the amendment of Act 921.

The National Conference on the MDF Act, organised by CEDA with the support of WUSC, under its WAGES Project, therefore, formed part of the stakeholder engagements that are expected to give a clear direction to the implementation of Act 912.

The objective of the conference was to discuss the progress and challenges of MDF implementation, share experiences of MDF utilisation in four pilot districts – Obuasi, Wassa East, Prestea Huni-Valley and Asutifi North – explore measures to improve accountability and to discuss, and adopt a road map for the enactment of Regulations for Act 921.

Participants included key relevant state and non-state actors involved in the management of mineral revenues, both at the national and sub-national level, namely representatives from Government Agencies, Civil Society, Community and Companies.

Also in attendance were Chiefs and Queen Mothers, representatives from the Canadian and Australian High Commissions, Global Media Foundation (GLOMEF) and Global Affairs Canada.

The conference was a follow-up to two conferences held on December 5, 2017, convened by CEDA on Mineral Revenue Management and on March 27, 2018 under the auspices of the WAGES Project.

The March 27, 2018 conference established the TWG which, over a period of two months, reviewed Act 921 and proposed issues for the Regulations and potential areas of amendment for the consideration of the MDF Board.

In 2018, CEDA had also secured the support of Star Ghana Foundation to establish multi-stakeholder MDF Monitoring Groups in the four pilot districts to promote accountability in mineral revenue management.

Source: G.D. Zaney, Esq.

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