The West Africa Coalition Against Mining (WACAM) has expressed concern about the rate at which some mining companies are illegally exploiting the country’s forest reserves.
Hannah Owusu Koranteng, Deputy Executive Director of WACAM, disclosed this at a two-day workshop on oil and gas for the media in Accra recently. According to her, mining in forest reserves contravens certain provisions in the National Land Policy developed by the Ministry of Lands & Forestry in 1999.
Also Section 4.5 (a) of the National Land Policy states that: “To ensure the conservation of environmental quality, no land with primary forest cover will be cleared for the purpose of establishing a forest or tree crop plantation or mining activity.”
Mrs Owusu-Koranteng however expressed shock at government’s intention to release portions of Ghana’s closed forest reserves for mining, adding that five mining companies are expected to receive mining leases to exploit mineral resources in Ghana’s forest reserves. This is based on the erroneous perception that most of Ghana’s forest reserves are sitting on gold.
The National Land Policy of 1999 states further in Section 4.4 (b) that “All lands are declared as forest reserves, strict nature reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and similar land categories constitute Ghana’s permanent forest reserves and wildlife estates, and are ‘fully protected’ for ecosystem maintenance, biodiversity conservation and sustainable timber protection.”
She therefore referred to 1994 Forest and Wildlife Policy of Ghana, which aims at ‘conservation and sustainable development of the nation’s forest and wildlife resources and the maintenance of environmental quality and perpetual flow of optimum benefits to all segments of society.
She revealed that if such a trend is not checked Ghana would lose all of its forest reserves in about 23 years at the current rate of depletion. “Mining companies have mined the Kubi, Tano Suraw and part of the Nueng Forest Reserves and exploration works are ongoing at Bonsa Forest Reserves.
“Newmont has the intention to mine in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve in the Akyem Project and use Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) as a way of rationalizing the destruction of the forest reserves by mining companies. There are also future plans to explore Bonsambepo, Ayun and Subin Forest Reserves at Brong Ahafo.”
WACAM reports that there were 783 species, excluding freshwater macro invertebrates at Ajenua Bepo. These included 29 species of conservation concerns, 25 of which were plant species and 10 new species to science. There were also 652 species, excluding freshwater macro invertebrates, found in Mamang River, 27 species of conservation concern (22 plant species) and seven new species.
But all these have been terminated with the destruction of approximately 140 hectares of semi-deciduous tropical forest and associated ecosystem functions; the destruction of approximately 70 hectares of forest in the protected Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve, or about one quarter of forest remaining in the reserve due to forest reserves mining.
“Such developments threaten the integrity of the protected area network; the destruction of about three quarters of forest patches between the nearest borders of the Forest Reserves.” There is also the likelihood of increased hunting and indirect habitat destruction of species of conservation; the risks of acid mine drainage and toxic metals contamination from waste materials totalling 15 million tonnes.
Additionally, there are cyanide contamination concerns from inadequately treated cyanide effluents and inadequate liner for tailings facility and social concerns including the displacement of over 1,000 people.
Furthermore, these have impacted on local livelihoods and the destruction or removal of at least 18 sacred or heritage sites including royal burial sites have been reported.
It was a result of the afore-mentioned that Dr Dominic Ayine of the Law Faculty, University of Ghana, in a presentation, called on government to reconsider its decision or risk losing the country’s forest reserves to mining which has failed to produce any significant changes in the lives of the people.
Source: Daily Guide
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