Despite the conventional knowledge in Ghana that the activities of some mining companies have severely impacted negatively on the environment, coupled with the notion that not enough is being done about this by sector regulators, this might not exactly be the situation in every circumstance.
In an attempt to reclaim the lands which have previously been degraded by human activities including mining, logging and among other activities, Newmont Goldcorp, – a leading gold mining business, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission and relevant stakeholders have restored large hectres back to its natural status.
As part of the company’s environmental impact statement, Newmont made commitments to reforest the areas it has impacted as a result of its mining activities by restoring the impacted area in three folds. Importantly, a portion of Newmont’s Akyem mines extends to the forest reserve.
An impact assessment carried out by the company revealed that its mining activities impacted a total of 101 hectres and per its commitments made to the Forestry Commission, it has reforested 317 hectres since 2014, further exceeding the three folds of the targeted 303 hectres. In fulfillment of this commitment, it will enable the company to retain its forest entry permit and continue its operations.
The reforested areas comprise of 60 hectres at Mamang forest, located within the setting of the mine and 257 hectres completed at Kweikaru Forest Reserve – which form part of phase I and phase II reforestation projects respectively.
Instructively, the move does not mean that the company impacted the whole area being reforested; its exact impacted area is just one-third of the lands it has reclaimed so far, the rest being areas impacted by the activities- most of them illegal – of other operators within the forest reserves.
For instance, with regards to Mixed Species (MS) 12 planting design, the area consists of 1,100 trees per hectre; the MS48 also consist of 625 trees per hectre, with 70 and 156 being indigenous trees respectively and the remaining being cindrella, traditionally important trees due to their vast economic benefits.
Speaking with the Goldstreet Business during a visit to the Newmont Akyem mine in the Birim North district of the Eastern Region, an event organised by the Ghana Chamber of Mines, a representative of the environmental team of the company, Larry Aning-Dei said the team deliberately introduced mixed tree species to bring competition to enable the indigenous trees also grow at fast rate.
Aside the tree plantation project, the company has also acquired a 1.5 acre stretch of land where it has established a herbal plantation consisting of 54 different medicinal plant species being cultivated. This was in collaboration with Conservation Alliance and other stakeholders.
The Senior Manager, Sustainability and External Relations of the Newmont Akyem mine, Mr. Derek Boateng revealed that as part of continuous efforts under the company’s reforestation programme, it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Forestry Commission to undertake a biodiversity offset programme at the Atiwa Forest “with no loss for key biodiversity values.”
This project focuses on minimizing environmental impacts of the company’s mining activities over the years by ensuring that degraded or damaged areas directly or indirectly caused by the company’s mining activities are revegetated. This is somewhat different from the reforestation project where it had to reclaim the areas where it did not undertake any activity at all.
“Both Akyem and Ahafo (mines) have reclamation plans in place and are implementing concurrent reclamation to restore previously mind areas. This demonstrates our credentials in biodiversity and establishment of ecosystem services”, Mr. Boateng reiterated.
Importantly, a representative from the Ghana Chamber of Mines asserts that the extent to which Newmont has carried out its reforestation programme is the first of its kind being that it is the very first mining company to operate in forest reserves.
The move by the company in reclaiming previously degraded lands forms part of its respective technical approach in making such areas productive.
However, some participants at the event noted that to enable all mining companies operate responsibly, that is in the highest standards of national and internationally acceptable environmental practices falls squarely within the remit of the State through its regulators namely the Forestry Commission, Mining Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and others.