Climate Change & Energy
Atewa Forest case: "We can all cry foul if Minerals Commission, EPA contravene the law" – Witness
Source: Starrfm.com.gh - February 7, 2023
An Environmentalist who doubles as the National Director of Arocha Ghana has told the High Court in Accra that “when the law is contravened” by the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest “we all can see it and we can cry foul.”
According to him, though intitutions like Arocha Ghana, and the other 10 plaintiffs will not be the relevant authorities to determine the legality or othersiwise of mining in the forest, when the law is bent for illegal mining it shows.
Under Cross-Examination from the prosecution led by Leona Johnson-Abassah, Dr Seth Appiah Kubi, though said Arocha Ghana may not be the organization to determine the legality of otherwise but “when the law is contravened we all can see it and we can cry foul.”
On Monday, February 6, hearing of the suit in which a group of environmentalists, climate change activists, individuals, civil society and non governmental organizations have dragged the government to court over the prospecting bauxite mine in the Atewa Range Forest had commenced at the High Court in Accra.
Arocha Ghana and 10 other plaintiffs are challenging the government’s move to mine bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest contending that the government is undertaking mining activities in the Forest without mineral rights.
The Plaintiffs are urging the court to compel the government to restore or pay the cost of damages that had been caused as a result of recognizance, prospecting and clearing of roads in the Forest.
The National Director of Arocha Ghana, the first witness for the plaintiffs, had tendered in his witness statement and the same was adopted by the court presided over by Justice John Nyante Nyandu.
Dr Seth Appiah Kubi, told the court that even though they had not reached any consensus with the Ghana Integrated Aluminum Development Corporation (GIADEC) at the time, they went ahead to announce publicly that Atewa Forest is one of the three targeted areas for bauxite mining.
Human dignity affected
The environmentalist also told the court that, the exploration activities in the Atewa Forest did not only lead to the dignity of Ghanaians being affected, but “also the source of three rivers and several tributaries that supply water to more than 5 million Ghanaians including the Weija Dam are being destroyed.”
The witness told the court that Arocha Ghana is a non state actor and it uses collaborative approach with state actors or the government agency like the environmental agencies such as the Forestry Commission and Minerals Commission.
Asked by the State Prosecutor Leona Johnson-Abasaah if the state actors were cooperative in their collaboration, the witness “not always,” but added that in their engagements they achieved their aims “sometimes and not always.”
Ghana Integrated Aluminum Development
Dr Appiah Kubi told the court that before coming to Arocha Ghana had engaged the Ghana integrated Aluminum Development Corporation (GIADeC) on several meetings.
“We did not get a result and we didn’t get a compromise. Our engagement with GIADeC to exclude Atewa mining from the bauxite mining did not yield any results,” he told the court.
He said at the time they engaging with GIADeC, there was not decision yet GIADeC had announced publicly Atewa Forest as one of the three targeted areas for bauxite mining.
“They went ahead to commission a recognizance and exploration activity at the forest which was carried without dew leagal processes destroying part of the forest. And these activities are the pre-events for actual mining,” the witness told the court.
Dr Appriah Kubi said though he is not an expert in mining, “I have worked in mining-related projects and activities and I have been involved in conferences in mining so I know a thing or two about the subject matter.”
He told the court that there is a clear EPA law (LI16: 52) (EPA Regulations) which states that “if you are undertaking a land use in a protected area of the status of the Atewa Forest then environmental impact assessment should be done if the full print of the activity is about a certain threshold.
He told the court that Arocha conducted a search with the EPA to verify whether GIADEC had the requisite permit to undertake the recognizance and exploration activities at the forest.
The court presided over by Justice Nyantakyi has ordered him to file supplementary statements of a search report from EPA.
The plaintiffs are seeking the following reliefs;
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.
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).
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).
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.