The Coalition of nongovernmental organisations against Mining in Atewa Forest, in the Eastern region has called on government to immediately cease all exploration activities in relation to bauxite mining everywhere in the country, until broad stakeholder consultations have been done.
According to the group, there seems to be no legitimacy and transparency in the preparatory processes leading to the mining of bauxite by government.
Addressing a Press Conference in Accra, the Coalition, in a statement read by its Spokesperson, Daryl Bosu said, the whole process was shrouded in secrecy, total neglect and disrespect of voices that oppose the manner in which Government is seeking to implement the project.
The group said they did not understand why President Akufo-Addo and his government is 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 giving us the rhetoric 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 group argued.
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.
On speculations about 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 would keep a close eye on the bauxite mining activities.
They therefore doubted government assurances for many reasons including: the lack of transparency and failure to adhere to human rights due diligence, community and stakeholder engagement even before the decision to mine a critical watershed such as Atewa Forest was considered.
The Coalition added that the legitimacy of the decision was questionable as it failed to undertake due diligence assessment that would 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, the group said.
Mr.Daryl Bosu continued: “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 its intention to seek either local or international legal backing to restrain government 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.