President Nana Akufo-Addo has assured Ghanaians that the mining of bauxite in the Atewa forest will be guided by best international practices and technology to ensure that the wildlife in the mining environment is not endangered.
Addressing the Sustainable Ocean Industries Conference organised under the auspices of the Petroleum Commission of Ghana, Aker Energy and the Norwegian Embassy in Ghana, as part of a two-day state visit by the Prime Minister of Norway to Ghana at the Labadi Beach Hotel, President Akufo-Addo, in an answer to a question about whether or not the mining of bauxite in the forest will not compromise the environment, said it was a very legitimate balance that ought to be struck and that the leadership of the country was looking to achieve the same balance.
“The technology of today is much more sensitive to these issues because of the pressure that is being brought on the bauxite and oil companies to take it into account. So, to some extent, beginning now, the full-scale exploitation of Ghanaian bauxite resources, we are in a better place, technology-wise, than we would have been 20, 30 years ago,” the President said.
He further stated that: “I am satisfied by what I have been told and what has been demonstrated to me that it is possible for us to get that red mud out without disturbing the wildlife there is in the Atewa mountains”.
The President additionally assured the nation that the Executive will keep a close eye on the bauxite sector to drive the country’s development successfully, and, at the same time, ensure maximum protection of the environment and the wildlife stock in the mining areas.
“What is important for us is to keep our eyes on both goals. The requirement of development but at the same time the balance that we must strike with the environment as we carry out the mining activities.
Norwegian Prime Minister
The Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said Sustainable Development Goal 14, which states that: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources,” is at the heart of the resource exploitation space in the world. She entreated actors in the mining sector to take adequate steps through the use of technology to protect the environment and for that matter man’s existence on the earth.
Aker Energy, an energy and petroleum company in Ghana, which is part of the wider Aker Group of companies based in Norway, pledged to continue its investments in the energy sector as well as support all efforts aimed at protecting the environment in mining areas where they have an interest.
Just two days ago, the Christian Council of Ghana appealed to the government to reconsider its decision to mine bauxite in the Atewa forest in the Eastern Region.
The Ghana Integrated Aluminum Development Corporation (GIADEC) has been mandated to promote and develop an aluminium industry by expanding the value chain to include the mining of bauxite, as well as the refining, smelting, and marketing of finished products.
Several non-government organisations and environmental activists have kicked against plans by the government to mine in the forest.
Contributing to the ongoing discussion, the Christian Council said in a letter to the president that: “The extraction of bauxite will undoubtedly require the forest to be removed since the deposits are only within the top few metres of the horizon and spread over a wide area.”
The Christian group said: “The resulting landscape will be impossible to restore to its former condition because the organics layer will be removed during the mining and it would probably take centuries for the lost flora and fauna to be re-established if they are not entirely extinct.”
The Christian Council said instead of mining, the government should rather establish a national park in the forest.
“Establishing a new national park is an option with great public support amongst the forest-urged communities who are so dependent on the forest. A new national park at Atewa forest can deliver sustainable jobs and livelihoods for many people and, as part of a living landscape, can provide new economic opportunities,” the Christian Council said in its letter.