Plans by government to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest Reserve in the Eastern Region has hit a new snag as some local civil society organisations, CSOs, have intensified their campaign against the controversial decision announced last year in the budget statement.
The intention announced by government to develop an integrated aluminium industry by mining the huge bauxite deposits within the Atewa Forest Reserve.
Opposition to the project spearheaded by the environmentalists stems from their stand that mining in the forest will mean the destruction of one of the country’s remaining forest reserves considering the fact that Ghana has lost much of her forest cover to such activities as illegal logging and illegal mining.
The opponents to the proposed US$15 billion Ghana-China joint venture have pointed out that between 1990-2010, the country lost 33.7 per cent of its forest reserves to illegal logging and other human activities.
According to the environmentalists, speaking at a capacity building workshop on forest and mining laws in Accra pointd out that since the forest is the source of some of the most important rivers – Densu, Ayensu and Birim – and any human activity like mining will lead to pollution of these rivers and their eventual sedimentation leading to their drying up.
The three groups leading the campaign include Tropenbos Ghana, A Rocha Ghana and Friends of the Earth Ghana.
Project Coordinator for Tropinbos Ghana, Boakye Twumasi Ankrah, speaking said they have impressed upon government to consider the environment above temporary economic considerations that leave behind more problems for the people to contend with.
“The Atewa Forest would generate additional financial resources for the state,” he said and want government to review its stance on allowing mining in the Atewa Forest, considering the importance of the reserve to the livelihood of humans and biodiversity.
According to their spokesman, their advocacy has not received as much attention as they would have wished but insisted they will continue to push for the forest to remain in its natural state.
Another issue they raised their concern about is the cocoa expansion programme in Juaboso-Bia, Western Region, where the farmers have encroached on the forest reserve creating a potential environmental problem.
“We are not against the cocoa expansion programme in any way, but that cannot be done at the expense of our forests that help protect our environment,” Boakye Twumasi Ankrah pointed out.
The group also admonished government against allocating forest reserves for mining activities, emphasising that the damage caused by such activities in has contributed to the depletion of Ghana’s forest cover.
Despite the plethora of laws governing the mining sector and the sanctions which include imprisonment has not deterred many from flouting the laws which has led to the sector incurring a loss of US$6 billion in the last three years.
Lecturer at GIMPA, Clement Kojo Akapame who is also a lawyer and works with Clientearth – a UK based group – also urged Parliament to effectively scrutinise mining contracts and concessions and also asked the quasi-government to do due diligence on its behalf before approving concessions for exploration and mining of any natural resources of Ghana.
He said the disregard and blatant breach of Ghana’s Forest and Mining Laws can only be curtailed if regulatory agencies have the willpower to strictly enforce these laws.
The workshop was in partnership with A Rocha Ghana, Friends of the Earth and Tropenbos Ghana, under the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) program.
The workshop, according to the group, is aimed at ensuring sustainable and inclusive management of the remaining forest through an integrated approach and recognises the devastating nature of deforestation and environmental degradation in Ghana, mainly resulting from agricultural expansion especially from cocoa and unsustainable logging and mining practices.
The workshop was organised by Tropenbos Ghana under the Green Livelihoods Alliance Programme with funds from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Dutch Embassy in Ghana.