Hands off Kakum National Park
For a country formerly called Gold Coast, gold mining has not dealt kindly with us. The gold trade has flourished in these parts for more than a thousand years. However, since colonialism entered into the fray, minerals have become the bane of our existence.
Today, we have lost much of our forest cover and pristine water bodies to mining, but the latest “news” from the mining front was the worst imaginable. At the beginning of this week, concerned civil society and environmental groups raised the red flag over an application filed by a mining company to mine in a section of the Kakum National Park.
The Mineral Commission calmed nerves by announcing that it had rejected the High Street Ghana Limited for a mining licence within the Kakum National Park. According to the Commission, the application from the mining firm received no consideration and was subsequently removed from the online mining list.
"The Commission wishes to inform the CSOs and the public that the application of High Street Mining Company Limited was rejected and, therefore, cannot be processed or considered whatsoever.
Consequently, the Commission has deleted the application from the online mining cadastre."
However, the idea that a mining company actually thought it was a good idea to mine in the Kakum National Park beggars belief.
Tucked away in the Assin Attandanso Reserve, the park is one of Ghana’s most visited attractions. It has the most famous walkway in the country, which is 333 metres long and boasts seven suspension bridges.
The Park offers visitors spectacular scenery and a fascinating wildlife experience along with modern camping facilities. Some of the trees in the park are said to be more than 300 years old.
Ecologically, Kakum is the premier site for bird watchers, with over 300 species including eight species of global conservation concern.
Mammals include forest elephants, leopards, bongo, bushbuck and many primates, but game viewing is difficult. Also, more than 600 butterfly species have been recorded. It has to be explained that once mining tampers with any part of the park, the entire ecology will be lost.
Of course, the threat to Kakum highlights a destructive threat that has gone beyond repair at the moment. It is worrying that a huge number of applications to mine in forest reserves have already been granted, including several holding only prospecting licences.
Joy News has reported that during a stakeholder engagement on the new Regulation on Mining in Ghana’s Forest Reserves (LI 2462) 2022 on Thursday, November 9, Mustapha Seidu, the Director of Nature and Development Foundation, cautioned against the potential widespread destruction of the country's forests if the Legislative Instrument (LI 2462) is not revoked.
As explained by the report, Mr Seidu urged stakeholders to address the issue promptly, stating, "If in less than one year of coming into force of LI 2462, we are seeing this massive legal destruction of our forest, we can imagine what will happen in the next five years or decade."
This is an issue that must be of the utmost concern to every Ghanaian citizen. Mining in forest reserves can have several negative effects on a country's economy, environment and rural communities, and this is particularly relevant in the context of Ghana as we are currently experiencing.
Already, mining in forest reserves has led to the depletion of valuable natural resources such as timber and non-timber forest products, which could have contributed to the country's economy.
This depletion has resulted in a loss of potential revenue from sustainable forest management practices, especially as much of it is due to illegal activities mining in forests – whether legal or otherwise, disrupts the crucial role forests play in supporting agriculture through ecosystem services like water regulation and soil fertility.
This has already happened in many parts of our country and we have very little to show for it. Mining has destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people by negatively affecting agricultural productivity and the livelihoods of rural communities.
In the case of Kakum, in addition to the ecological argument, mining would degrade the aesthetic value of the areas, leading to a decline in tourism and related economic activities.
Mining in forest reserves often involves clearing large areas of land, leading to deforestation. This can result in the loss of biodiversity, disruption of ecosystems, and an increase in carbon emissions, contributing to climate change.
The very idea that someone thought there would be greater value in mining in the Kakum forest must cause more than armchair outrage. This is serious and must serve as a wake-up call to the destructive effects of the new mining law that makes this possible. As the street parlance says: I can’t think far!