Editorial: How do we solve the mining in Atewa Forest conundrum?

Official data from the World Bank indicates that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Ghana is worth $72.35 billion, and this represents just 0.06% of the world economy. This, under the normal circumstances, should not be something we should be enthused about. However, if we should also look at the fact that just 22 years ago, the size of our economy was just $4 billion, the $72.35 billion we are recording now is a quantum leap, and we should be proud of that.

What we need to do now is to double the current GDP in the next 15 to 20 years to come. This, in our opinion, can be achieved through two main pillars – improvement in our educational system and prudent exploitation of our natural resources. The Chronicle is happy that the Akufo-Addo government is seriously tackling the educational part of the equation, through the Free Senior High School concept currently in operation.

If the larger portion of the population is well educated, it presupposes that they would be having well paid jobs for the government to also tax them. What we should all bear in mind is that no country can develop without the payment of taxes by her citizens.  The United States, Canada and the European countries are rich nations, because their citizens pay taxes.

Unfortunately, the other pillar – exploitation of our natural resources – is having a serious challenge, which we must collectively address as a nation. Exploitation of every natural resource on land comes with the destruction of either the environment or assets belonging to the state and individuals. Ghana is currently the leading gold producer in Africa, but this feat has been achieved at great cost to the nation.

Our water bodies, and the environment as a whole, are being destroyed with careless abandon. But the big question is: should we continue to explore these natural resources and generate the needed revenue for the development of the state, or we should look at the destructive side of the coin and stop exploiting them?

One natural resource that seems to have found itself in this kind of conundrum is bauxite. Currently, there is a hot debate as to whether the government should mine bauxite from the Atewa Forest in the Eastern Region, or not. The government has the agenda to transform the aluminium sector of our economy to generate jobs and also create wealth for the country. But those who are opposing the idea are looking at the destruction that would be caused to the environment.

Indeed, one can say without any trepidation that those opposing the idea have a genuine case if we are to look at the climatic condition currently prevailing in Ghana, and the world at large. Just this month, hundreds of people were killed by floods in South Africa, and this unfortunate development is being attributed to climate change. Should we, therefore, continue to destroy our environment and bear same consequences in future?

But, as we all struggle to solve this puzzle, The Chronicle is happy with a pronouncement by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, that the integrity of the Atewa Forest will never be compromised.  This means the Minister himself has acknowledged the importance of the Atewa Forest to the survival of the nation.

But, since we also need the resources to oil the economic wheels of this country, the ore must be mined. It is our hope that the company that is going to mine in the forest will adopt modern mining practices and ensure that, indeed, the integrity of the popular Atewa Forest is not compromised as promised by the Minister.


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