Accra — Civil societies threaten to drag Gov't to court
A coalition of civil societies have threatened to drag the government to court if mining companies are allowedto do surface mining in forest reserves. The intention of the coalition was stated by John Mensah Dadzie of Green Earth Organisation, a Non-Governmental Organization at a forum organised in Accra as part of an on-going campaign against government's policy to allow mining in forest reserves.
"The National Coalition Against Mining in Forest Reserves wishes to appeal to the Government of Ghana to reconsider its position to issue mining permits for mineral exploitation in the Forest Reserves, to avert possible legal action by the Coalition against it." Dadzie said.
The coalition's position is informed by the fact that it would be environmentally disastrous to open up the forest dwindling forest reserves for mining.
In a presentation on 'alternative views on mining in forest reserves' Dadzie said it is illegal to grant licenses for mineral extraction because it contravenes international conventions on biological diversity.
Besides he said it is also against the nation's own policy document produced in 1994, on forests and wildlife.
Dadzie said it is a disrespect to the concerns of the Forestry Commission which is the constitutional body set up to oversee forest and wildlife issues and to develop polices for their effective management.
He said the government action breaches the spirit of agreement entered into with such international bodies like the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO)
Dadzie said Ghana is a signatory to the International Convention on Biological Diversity, which came into effect ten years ago.
Significantly, he said, the convention was inspired by the world's growing recognition that the earth's biological resources are vital to humanity's economic and social development.
According to Dadzie, by the provisions of the convention, the contracting party shall as far as possible and appropriate intergrate considerations of the conservasion and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision making. Nations are to protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional and cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use of requirements.
"By sustainability, we mean maximising the benefits of present generation from the goods and services these forest resource provide without destroying its potential or capacity to provide similar goods and services to posterity or generation yet unborn." Dadzie said.
He said the reason for which 1.76 million hectares, about twenty-two percent of forest cover out of an estimated total of 8.2 million hectares in Ghana in the early part of the last 20th century, was reserved was to provide permanent forest estates to protect the environment and to ensure climatic stability for agricultural development, and protect biodiversity, water resources and cultural values.
According to Dadzie the remaining 78% of the total forest cover was to be use for production purposes such as timber extraction, agricultural production and other traditional uses.
"Hardly was mineral exploration or exploitation mentioned in our statue books let alone to have such mentioned for the protected area."
He said the argument that the degraded forest will be planted does not hold water, because the practice over the years of mining shows that is not possible reverse situation.
Dadzie also raised the concerns of the Forestry Commission which among others states that national forest reserves are part of the world's only remaining but fast depleting forest with rich stock of genetic resources. The forest reserves also constitutes a priceless ecological heritage for majority of the rural folk.
Mike Anane of the League of Environmental Journalist, said five multinational mining companies have geared up to begin mining in the forest reserves by August this year. Unfortunately, the NPP government seems to be helpless in attempt to stop this because of what amounts to blackmailing tactics of the multinationals.
According to Anane, the companies claimed to have spent over ten million dollars in prespecting exercises when the NDC government granted them permit to go into the forest. And that if the present government failed to grant them permit they (the companies) would go to court to demand their money back. The companies have also threatened to relocate to Guinea and Tanzania and lay off their workers.
Anane said strangly, the cabinet have already accepted defeat and granted permit to two of the companies, Newmont and Ashanti Goldfields to operate the reserves at Ajenja Bepo and Kubi. Other reserves that have to go include Subri River Forest Reserve. Apart from its significant biodiversity, it is the watershed of the Pra and Bonsa Rivers. Other reserves marked are Supuma Shelterbelt, Opon Mansi in the Western region, Tano Suraw and Suraw Extension and Cape Three Points, all in the Western Region and Atewa Range Forest reserves in the Eastern Region.
Anane said his investigation said some companies pushing fir the exploitation of the Forest Reserves include Chirano Goldmines Limited, Satellite Goldfields Limited, Nevsun/AGC and Birim/AGC.
Anane also revealed that the out going Minister for Mines, Adjei Darko blame the NDC government for granting the mining companies permit in the first place to do prospecting in the forest.
But even as Adjei Darko blame NDC, the minister gave himself away by asking whether the country should leave those rich deposits of gold there in the ground while a lot of problems like poverty, under development and unemployment starred at the nation in the face. The Minister also expressed concern about the negative signals that will be sent abroad about investment climate in the country.
The coalition is made up of fourteen organisations including TWN, CEPIL, WACAM, LEJ, ISODEC, GEO ABANTU for Development, EGC of Ghana, ICA, GAWU, CERES, FE, FON, FIAN.