Photo: Atewa forest. Source: Save Atewa Forest - Photo: 2019

Bauxite Mining Threatens Ghana’s Crown Jewel of Biodiversity

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | ACCRA (IDN) – Environmental groups in Ghana are waging an eleventh-hour battle to stop the government of Ghana from opening the Atewa Forest Reserve – a crown jewel of biodiversity and a source of three rivers – to commercial large-scale bauxite mining.

Their resistance conforms to the Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly‘s resolution on mining resource governance in Nairobi from March 11-15. The resolution stresses in particular Sustainable Development Goal 7 calling for ‘affordable and clean energy’ and Goal 12 on ‘responsible consumption and production’, “reminding the important contribution of mining to their achievement”.

“We don’t want it,” said Chief Nana Larbikrum, 79, from a tiny settlement on the fringes of Atewa, referring to the opening up of the Atewa Forest Reserve, in an interview with Equal Times, a website of social justice activists based in Belgium. He and other farmers who grow and sell cocoa and plantain are especially worried. “They will come and scrape off all the trees, and there won’t be any rainfall or windbreaks for us,” the chief says.

But a contract with the Chinese company is reportedly on the table. To secure a US$19 billion infrastructural loan from the Chinese government, the Chinese state-owned Sinohydro Group has been invited to build roads, bridges and rural electrification projects worth US$2 billion.

In exchange, the company will be paid back from the proceeds made from mining Ghana’s abundant bauxite reserves in Atewa and Nyinahin, another forest reserve in the Ashanti region.

Since assuming office in January 2017, President Nana Akufo-Addo has announced his vision of building a ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’. To fulfill this vision, he has set his eyes on revenue accrued from the mining of bauxite.

A Rocha Ghana and Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape (CCLA) are fighting back, insisting the forest reserve should be designated a national park, which could generate additional income for the country.

In a speech that marked Ghana’s 61st Independence Day celebrations in March 2018, he said: “My government is going to implement an alternative financing module to leverage our bauxite reserves in particular to finance major infrastructure programme across Ghana. This will probably be the largest infrastructure programme in Ghana’s history without any addition to Ghana’s debt stock. It will involve the barter or exchange of refined bauxite for infrastructure.”

Among the places marked for mining is the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, which is critical to the livelihood of humans and biodiversity. Although the government has stated that it will engage in “responsible mining” in the forest, officials have yet to provide any proposals addressing a framework for how to successfully mine without inciting harmful environmental effects.

This has caused a massive collision between the government, local environmentalists, and citizens of the communities surrounding the reserve. The billboard outside of the President’s house reads: Don’t mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest!

Designated one of Ghana’s 30 Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas in 1999, it has the highest diversity of butterflies of any site in West Africa, at least 1100 plant species including 56 threatened with extinction, and thirteen threatened and near-threatened birds.

The U.S.-based Conservation International echoed their concerns.

“Atewa forest is unique,” wrote Okyeame Ampadu-Agyei, Conservation’s Country Director, on the group’s website. “It has excellent biological resources and distinctive upland forest vegetation which unfortunately is under threat by commercial bauxite mines.

The bauxite deposits will eventually be exhausted,” he signaled, “but the forest is a renewable resource which, if protected now, will be appreciated centuries hence long after all the bauxite has gone.”

Ghana has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in West Africa and lost 13 per cent of its forest cover between 2001 and 2017, according to Global Forest Watch. In 25 years, Ghana could lose all of its forests, scientists warn. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 April 2019]

Photo: Atewa forest. Source: Save Atewa Forest

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

Send your comment:

Subscribe to IDN Newsletter:

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top