New Mining Law imperils Ghana’s environmental legacy

New Mining Law imperils Ghana’s environmental legacy

On May 17, 2017, I co-convened a national stakeholder forum and campaign against irresponsible mining in Ghana at the La Palm Royal Beach.


Several representatives across government, traditional rulers, cognoscenti, civil society and local communities spoke at the occasion. 

However, Nana Kobina Nketsia V, the Omanhene of the Essikado Traditional Area’s voice still echoes in my head. Speaking to the theme, ‘Mobilising national efforts for responsible mining’, he began by asking: ‘What legacy are we leaving behind for the next generation of Ghanaians yet unborn?’

The government’s controversial promulgation and continued gung-ho application of the Environmental Protection (Mining in Forest Reserves) Regulations, 2022 (L.I. 2462) leads me to believe – unless it changes course incontrovertibly and with unerring alacrity – its legacy is a gangrenous chalice. 

Its legacy is a looming environmental catastrophe, a stark betrayal of public trust and an indelible stain on our nation’s history. The Akufo-Addo-Bawumia government risks being remembered not for Free SHS or prosperity but for ecological devastation and the irreversible harm inflicted on future generations.

A landmark report that led to the emergence of forest reserves in our country was the Thompson Report of 1911. The author held that forest reserves were essential to stall the advancement of the Sahara Desert, create a good microclimate for cocoa production and safeguard our headwaters.

Additionally, we need forest reserves to: protect our endemic biodiversity, reduce the risks of epidemics and pandemics and mitigate climate change. Before L.I. 2462, we had incoherent policies on mining in forest reserves.

Whereas our National Land Policy proscribes mining in reserves, our Forest and Wildlife Policy and other administrative guidelines were lax. Unfortunately, the promulgation of L.I. 2462 has opened the floodgates for mining in forest reserves.

Consider this: before L.I. 2462, mining in forest reserves was estimated at 4,700 ha. Barely 18 months after the law passed, the government is reported to have granted mining rights on about 390,000 ha, i.e., 22 per cent of our forest reserves – 14 more applicants are awaiting decisions from the Minerals Commission. At this rate, we’ll have no forest reserves by 2035.


Critics, including environmental law experts, have scrutinised L.I. 2462, highlighting constitutional breaches and legal inconsistencies. First, the legislation empowers and relies on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for implementation despite the Agency lacking ‘constitutional authority and mandate to manage natural resources.’

Second, L.I. 2462 over-extends the authority of the minister in charge of Lands and Natural Resources, while lacking a proper legal foundation under the Environmental Protection Act of 1994 (Act 490). Its scope is misaligned with permitted activities within Act 490, making it constitutionally questionable.

Third, in Ghana, forest reserves are established by the President via Executive Instruments (E.I.), managed by the Forestry Commission and can only be altered by an E.I. or an Act of Parliament. L.I. 2462, created by the EPA, lacks the legislative authority to override these protections, as an L.I. cannot implicitly repeal an E.I. Thus, without explicit constitutional allowance, L.I. 2462 cannot authorise mining in forest reserves or diminish their protections, which are firmly rooted in higher parliamentary acts.

Furthermore, the legislation’s lenient sanctions orientation, one-year imprisonment (maximum), and 250 penalty units (GHS 3000) –raise concerns about its adequacy in deterring environmental degradation.

Despite considerable questions about L.I. 2462, many government cronies are visibly applying it to destroy forest reserves.


A more dangerous and yet insidious effect of L.I. 2462 concerns how profits from mining in forest reserves find their way into our national politics, including reinforcing vote-buying, political patronage and clientelism.

These are all serious threats to our democracy and social well-being. Unless we act swiftly to repeal L.I. 2462 and protect the government from itself, the Akufo-Addo-Bawumia administration’s legacy may not only be a damaged environment and polluted water bodies but also a deeply wounded democracy.

We must prioritise the preservation of our natural heritage and the integrity of our political system for the sake of future generations.

The writer is a Researcher, Land, Society, and Governance Group, Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, UK; Partnership for Agriculture, Conservation and Transformation (PACT), Ghana.

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