Atronsu, a farming community in the Bibiani/Anhwiaso/Bekwai Municipality of the Western North Region has thrived for generations, sustained by the purity of its river called Nana Atronsu. However, this idyllic haven now finds itself at the mercy of an imminent threat – with the relentless operation of the Ghana Bauxite Mining Company in the area, casting a dark shadow over the future of their precious water resources. For years, the residents of Atronsu have relied on the pristine waters of their local stream for drinking, cooking, and bathing. These water bodies not only quenched their thirst but also served as a vital source of livelihood, supporting agriculture and sustaining the delicate ecological balance of the area. As part of the Mission Visit by the Environment Report to Atronsu in February 2024, it was discovered that, the Ghana Bauxite Mining Company also known as GBC which has been mining at Awaso for decades now intends to extend its operations to the Atronsu Hills creating a new path as part of the preparation for the extension project. But, beneath the proposed site for the extension project lies the pristine river Atronsu facing the threat of pollution as the red dust from the construction work is already contaminating the water. “It was about a year ago when the clearing of the new path on the Atronsu hills began by the GBC and there are already some signs of pollution of our only river and source of drinking water as last year, the red soil from the new path being constructed was seeping into the river contaminating the very arteries of Atronsu's water supply.” Patrick Japheth Danso, a local activist told the Environment Report. The Atronsu River is the main supply of good drinking water for more than 10,000 people serving communities such as Ampekrom, Gyapongkrom, and Atronsu, including the staff quarters of the GBC. Japheth revealed in an interview that, the Company before the clearing exercise did not consult members of the community including farmers whose farms were destroyed in the process. “Looking at the landscape, our stream has its source from where the work is going to be carried out by the GBC, and if clearing a new path is even polluting our river body, then what will happen if the company starts its full operations in the area, meaning there will be no River Atronsu again and thousands of livelihood are going to be affected”, he observed.
Our work cannot be in vain
In November 2022, the government of Ghana launched the Atronsu-Ampenkrom Community Mining Scheme but this was vehemently rejected by the youth of the community. The initiative was commissioned on November 18, 2022, by Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, George Mireku Duker, promising to protect water bodies in the area including river Atronsu. But, having witnessed the havoc being caused to communities already engaged in the Community Mining Scheme including the footprint of polluted river bodies, the youth of Atronsu kicked against it by holding a series of demonstrations to ask the Minerals Commission to withdraw the mining licence issued for the mining activities.
The Community Mining Project rejected by the Atronsu residents
The main theme of the demonstration at that time was that “the pristine Atronsu stream cannot join the list of polluted water bodies which include Akombra, Birim, Bonsa, and Tano River”. Standing firm in rejecting the community mining in the area, the aggrieved youth under the name the Atronsu Youth/Farmers Anti-Community Mining/Small Scale Mining Group has managed to secure an injunction on the mining activities at the Sefwi Wiawso High Court and it is pending. Our checks at the mining site have revealed that, the miners have moved all equipment from the site. According to some mining experts, the Atronsu community has so far been the only successful community in the country that has been able to stop the community mining scheme by the government after being launched. “That is why our work cannot be in vain. If we can stop the community mining scheme to protect River Atronsu then we cannot allow the same mining in a different format to destroy same”, an 80-year-old Georgina Awotwe, a.k.a. Anti Abiba told the Environment Report. "The water that sustains us is not a commodity to be plundered for profit. It is a sacred gift of nature, entrusted to our care for generations to come and we are ready to protect it”, she added. In the face of this existential threat, members of the Atronsu Youth/Farmers Anti-Community Mining/Small-Scale Mining Group said they are still united in their bid to safeguard their community's most precious asset - clean water.
Japheth disclosed that, the group is going to petition the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the activities of the Ghana Bauxite Mining Company in Atronsu adding that “We have launched a spirited campaign to halt any destruction of River Atronsu and we will continue to protect its integrity as it is the only source of good drinking water we have”. As part of our Mission Visit, the Environment Report Team visited Awaso where the Ghana Bauxite Mining Company has its office to find out how they intend to protect the river in their extension work but we were directed to Accra which is their headquarters to send our interview request. But before going to press our interview request hasn’t been honored by the Company since February 15, 2024 when it was delivered.