The Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) against Mining in Atiwa Range Forest Reserve has lashed out at the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amenu, for “seeking to justify the reason to destroy the Atiwa Range Forest Reserve, which serves as the main source of water for 5 million Ghanaians.”
The Minister is reported to have said that government would engage in responsible, sustainable and friendly environmental practices in mining bauxite in the Atiwa forest.
He is also quoted to have indicated that the government would take a cue from international best practices regarding responsible mining to safeguard the environment and health of the people.
However, his statement seems not to have gone down well with the Coalition of NGOs against mining, which has on countless occasions reached out to government to secure the Atiwa forest for its water provision service and as result rescind all plans to target this watershed for bauxite.
They described the minister’s statement as “unfortunate, in bad faith, defeating the very ethics of responsible and sustainable mining practices that he was alluding the government will abide by.”
In a statement copied to the media in Accra, the Coalition of NGOs opposed to mining in the Atiwa Forest said: “In respect of the government’s commitment to ensuring responsible mining, we are sad to observe that the government has right from the word go, abused the basic tenets of responsible mining.
According to the statement, responsible mining embodies four overarching principles. These, it said, were business integrity, planning and managing for positive legacies, social responsibility and environmental responsibility.
The Business Integrity principles focuses on ensuring that Operating companies conduct businesses in a transparent manner that complies with applicable host country and international laws, respects human rights and builds trust and credibility with workers, communities and stakeholders.
According to them, this seeks to ensure that mining operations are legally compliant not only to local laws but also to international laws and also focus on human rights, due diligence and community and stakeholder engagement, even before the decision to mine a critical watershed such as Atiwa is considered.
It said the second tenet of responsible mining captures a planning and management process that focus on achieving a positive legacy for communities and stakeholders.
According to the statement, this principle specifically looks at issues of community pre-informed participation in decision making and agreements on the development of mines, environmental impact assessments and issues of benefit delivery, resettlements and emergency response mechanisms.
“As far as the second principle is concerned, government has failed woefully in not undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment, even before signing off our natural heritage to foreign investors.
“We invite the Minister Lands and Natural Resources and government to share the information of the due diligence of the bauxite resources, opportunities and trade-offs publicly as he claims has been done. Our checks prove that no such studies have been done.
“Their posturing of non-disclosure, non-engagement and close door agreement brokering despite the countless requests for transparency by communities and Civil Society Organisations, defeated all intents to ensure responsible and sustainable mining wherever bauxite mining will occur, much less in a critical watershed like the Atiwa Range Forest Reserve,” it said.
The Statement added that the third and fourth principles, which are Social and Environmental Responsibility include quality of life of not only mine workers but most importantly, communities.
It said some key areas of interest with respect to the environmental responsibility principle is the need to protect biodiversity, maintain the benefits of ecosystem services and respect the values being safeguarded in protected areas, adding that respecting value of protected areas will mean not targeting areas that are irreplaceably significant for water provisioning and a haven for biodiversity.
The Statement also explains reasons why mining in Atiwa Forest will be irresponsible: The plan to sacrifice water for 5 million Ghanaians for low grade bauxite mine which will bring untold water stress and hardship to communities on the fringes, the failure of government to undertake a Strategic Environment Assessment and due diligence as to the feasibility and trade-off for bauxite mining a watershed like Atiwa before going to leverage it for financial deal.
The statement added, there is nowhere in the world where bauxite mining in a watershed has been responsible. It must be mentioned that, all the five (5) major bauxite mines in Australia are not happening in a watershed, which is the source of water for the citizenry.
It said the current bauxite mines at Awaso reflects the sad, deplorable state to which our bauxite reserves have been managed. Communities around Awaso are in dire need of amenities and are crying to be liberated.
According to the statement, there has been about 12 attempts to mine the bauxite in Atiwa, but on all these occasions, considerations of negative impact on water, health and well-being led to the abrogation of such plans.
“Alcoa, a bauxite mining company with huge presence in Australia is one of the many companies that understood and appreciated the water services and decided to back out of the Atiwa mine interest,” the statement said.