The Coalition of NGOs against Mining in Atewa Forest has called on the Government of Ghana to cease all exploration activities in relation to bauxite mining in the country, until the successful completion of broad stakeholder consultation.
According to the group, there seems to be no legitimacy and transparency in the preparatory processes leading to the mining of bauxite by the government.
Addressing a Press Conference in Accra, the Coalition in a statement read by its Spokesperson, Mr. Daryl Bosu said, the whole process was shrouded in secrecy, total neglect and disrespect of voices that oppose the manner in which the Government is seeking to implement the project.
This the group said they did not understand why President Akufo-Addo and his Government were bent on having their way, despite the millions of voices of reasons asking them [government] to exempt the Atewa Forest from this bauxite agenda.
“The Presidents keeps assuring of employing international best practices. International best practice requires that there must be a Strategic Environmental Assessment to account for the many ways in which development of the bauxite sector might affect the environment. Further to this, any specific activity on the ground must be preceded by an Environmental Impact Assessment, including exploratory activity”.
The Coalition emphasized that the International Finance Corporation Standards recognised that protecting and conserving biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem services and sustainably managing living natural resources are fundamental to sustainable development.
Referring to the secret entry into the Atewa Forest by an unknown mining company with heavy excavators and other equipment, the Coalition said that it was not enough for the President to give his personal assurance, or for his government to claim that it will keep a close eye on the bauxite mining activities.
The Coalition added that the legitimacy of the decision was questionable as it failed to undertake due diligence assessment that will foster a positive legacy for communities and stakeholders.
“On what the President calls, technology and what he has seen, there is clearly every indication that is not factual. According to the Minerals Commission, the bauxite deposits in Atewa are found in a seam on average 6 metres thick, just 1.5 to 3 metres below the surface. Strip mining is the only way to mine Ghana’s bauxite due to its closeness to the surface.
“This method removes all vegetation, habitats and top soil, while the rock beneath is then broken up with explosives. A clear example of the destruction that is caused to forests by bauxite mining is Ghana’s existing bauxite mine at Awaso in the Western Region, now a desert of red mud that replaced once thick forest”.
The Coalition also disclosed their intention to seek either local or international legal backing to restrain the Government of Ghana from executing its planned bauxite mining in the Atewa Forest Reserve to prevent the possible negative impact on downstream water bodies, underground aquifers and health problems that come with bauxite mining.
Several calls from local and international organizations and environmental experts have cautioned President Akufo-Addo and his government over bauxite mining in the Atewa Forest which is a source of water for five regions in the country.