Two institutions, A Rocha Ghana and Flower Ghana and two private citizens, Awula Serwah and Oteng Adjei, have served a notice to the Attorney-General about their intention to sue the government unless the plan to mine the Atewa Forest is rescinded.
They want the Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo, to advise the government against the intended plan to mine the forest or they proceed with the suit.
Leading their cause is respected legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu, who has said although his clients are good citizens of Ghana and support government's quest to raise funds to develop the country, they do not believe that government should exploit the Atewa Range Forest for bauxite reserves because there are far richer bauxite reserves.
“For emphasis, according to Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Cooperation (GIADEC), there are 900 million tonnes of bauxite minerals across Ghana. It is estimated that Nyinahin alone has 700 million tonnes whilst Awaso and Kyebi contain 60 million, and 160 million tonnes respectively. It implies that only 17.78% of Ghana's bauxite can be found in Kyebi, the area within which the Atewa Range Forest can be found. Over 82% of Ghana's bauxite can be mined without compromising the existence of Atewa Range Forest,” Mr Kpebu points out in the notice to the Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo.
The notice states that in view of the above, A Rocha Ghana, Flower Ghana, Awula Serwah and Oteng Adjei intend to bring the civil action against the government to protect and safeguard the environment pursuant to the constitutional duty imposed on them under article 41(k) of the Constitution of Ghana, 1992.
- The Atewa Forest Range is home to many rare wildlife species, according to experts.
Cause of Action
In 2017, Ghana signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China to develop a bauxite industry in Ghana with Atewa Range Forest as one of the sources of raw materials.
Following this disclosure, A Rocha Ghana, Flower Ghana, Awula Serwah and Oteng Adjei and other institutions such as; Save the Frogs Ghana, Herp Ghana, Ghana Institute of Foresters, Ghana Wildlife Society, The Development Institute, Friends of the Earth Ghana, Tropenbos Ghana and Coalition of NGOs Against Mining Atewa embarked on a series of campaign against the decision to mine bauxite at the said location.
Joining them in the action are Christian Council of Ghana, Ghana Institute of Foresters, KASA Ghana, EcoCare Ghana, Amphibian Survival Alliance, Birdlife International, Global Wildlife Conservation, Rainforest Trust, RSPB and WWF.
A Rocha Ghana, Flower Ghana, Awula Serwah and Oteng Adjei and other groups also urged President Nana Akufo-Addo to protect the Atewa Range Forest in a letter dated July 6, 2018, but according to the notice, the President evinced no interest for this cause.
Several walks have been organised to create awareness among Ghanaians and over 150,000 individuals across the globe have now added their names to petitions calling for Atewa Range Forest to be protected.
Various articles have also been published on local and international media to inform, educate, and win support to protect Atewa Range Forest but the Government of Ghana consistently demonstrates no interest at all, the notice said.
“As the principal legal adviser to the Government, the concerns of my clients are restated herein so that the government may be properly advised. My clients have demonstrated that Atewa Range Forest is a site of high biodiversity value and protects the watershed for three major rivers and several other streams serving clean water to 5 million Ghanaians,” Mr Kpebu’s notice to the Attorney-General stated.
Mr Kpebu said his clients further state that Atewa Forest has been traditionally managed for water production, catchment protection, biodiversity conservation, and recreation, all of which are incompatible with bauxite mining. The forest is also administratively globally classified as Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA). “It is also classified administratively as a protected forest reserve, for which all mining activities are to be excluded,” the notice added.
It said strip mining is the only way to mine Ghana's bauxite due to its closeness to the surface and notes that this method removes all vegetation, habitats and topsoil, while the rock beneath is then broken up with explosives.
“As such the obvious results from these activities include: loss of biodiversity, loss of access to clean water, build-up of Green House Gases, loss of climate amelioration services, loss of emission reduction services, loss of medicinal/economic valuable plants and change in tourism potential of the area among others,” the letter to the Attorney-General added.
The letter to the Attorney-General cites what it says is a clear example of the destruction that is caused to forests by bauxite mining in Ghana's existing bauxite mine at Awaso in the Western Region, “now a desert of red mud that replaced a once thick forest.”
“Environmentalists have on many occasions cautioned that "extracting bauxite from Atewa Range Forest is incompatible with biodiversity conservation and the ecosystem services that the forest provides. It will spell the end of the unique and irreplaceable species that the forest contains".
“It is against this background that my clients serve notice of their intention to bring a legal suit against the Government of Ghana, should the latter fail to exclude Atewa Range Forest from the bauxite mining project,” the notice clarified.
Should they proceed to court, Mr Kpebu’s clients will be praying the court for the following reliefs:
i. A declaration that the right to life and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana, 1992 include (a) the right to a clean and healthy environment and (b) the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
ii. A declaration that mining of bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest violates the right to life and dignity as enshrined under articles 13 and 15 of the Constitution of Ghana (1992).
iii. An order, compelling the Government of Ghana and its agents to take the necessary steps to protect Atewa Range Forest in accordance with its constitutional obligations as contained under article 36(9) of the Constitution (1992).
iv. An order, restraining the Government of Ghana, its assigns and agents, servants, workmen, allottees and guarantees whatsoever and howsoever described from undertaking mining and its related activities in the Atewa Range Forest.