Coalition of environmental NGOs considering court action over Atewa

BY: Seth J. Bokpe
Mr Daryl Bosu, Deputy National Director of Arocha Ghana
Mr Daryl Bosu, Deputy National Director of Arocha Ghana

A coalition of environmental non-governmental organisations says it is considering going to court to stop the government from going ahead with exploration of bauxite in the Atewa Forest, which started on May 30, 2019, if it fails to heed the call for environmental impact assessment.

It claims that the government had broken local environmental laws and international best practices by giving the go-ahead to a company to start pulling down trees in preparation for mining activities.

Although the Forestry Commission had denied claims that it had given the green light for any mining activity in the forest but rather an old path was being opened up to allow the Ghana Aluminium Integrated Development Corporation (GAIDEC) to undertake a geological assessment, Mr Daryl Bosu, a member of the coalition, said the fact on the ground told a different story.

“We can confirm from eyewitness accounts that a company has begun bulldozing its way into the evergreen upland ecosystem, a protected watershed providing water for more than 5 million Ghanaians; a haven for biodiversity subsequently dubbed the ‘crown jewel’ of Ghana’s forests; and a legally protected hill sanctuary and globally significant biodiversity area,” he said at a press conference in Accra yesterday.

Mr Bosu, therefore, asked Ghanaians to demand answers and ask for due process with respect to the government’s intention to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest Reserve.

Due diligence

He said while the coalition was not against plans by the government to exploit the country’s mineral resources to address development challenges, it needed to follow due process, including a comprehensive trade-off analysis, that consultatively assesses all the social, environmental and posterity-associated costs.

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The President had recently given an assurance that the exploitation of the country’s bauxite resources, particularly in Atewa, would be guided by best international practices and technology to ensure that wildlife stock in the mining environment was not endangered.

Strip mining

“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 topsoil, 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 a once thick forest.”

“Bauxite mining in a watershed anywhere in the world has never been responsible and sustainable, and no amount of executive caveat to that can wish it away. We know there is no ‘modern technology’ that can remove the red mud without first removing the forest that grows on top,” Mr Bosu said.