Climate Change & Energy
Genuine error? Minerals Commission changes status of Vimetco over Atewa bauxite mining
Source: ghenvironment.com - July 15, 2022
There has been a sudden change in the status of Vimetco Ghana Bauxite Ltd on the website of the Minerals Commission following the publication of their license to do mining prospecting in the Atewa forest reserve.
Ghenvironment.com published a story on Wednesday July 13, 2022, with the caption “Government goes after Atewa forest again, gives another prospecting license to Vimetco”.
The story was based on publication on the website of the Minerals Commission confirming the granting of license to Vimetco Ghana Bauxite Ltd to do mining prospecting in the Atewa forest reserve which is a biodiversity hub and a critical watershed.
The license was set to expire in February 2025.
Comparing the license issued and the changes made on the site of the Minerals Commission
But, the status of the company has since changed as at July 14, 2022, on the website of the Minerals Commission indicating that, the company’s license has since expired in the year 2012.
This is what was on the site of the Minerals Commission on July 13
That notwithstanding, some residents of the Atewa landscape have served notice that, they would resist and block any mining prospecting in the Atewa forest reserve to preserve the biodiversity hub and the critical watershed.
President of the Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape, Mr Oteng Adjei has said in an interview that, even though the status of the license has been changed to an expired one, their members would continue to stay alert and prevent any mining prospecting in the forest reserve.
“Apart from being a biodiversity hub, the Atewa forest reserve as a critical watershed as it is the source for the Birim, Densu and Ayensu rivers, which provide water for some 5 million people, including residents of the capital, Accra and we are ready to protect it”, he said.
Commenting on the sudden changes by the Minerals Commission regarding the status of Vimetco on its twitter page, environmental NGO, A Rocha Ghana said, “Few days ago, we got info from Minerals Commission website of a prospecting license to Vimetco Ghana Bauxite Ltd in the Atewa forest. We raised an alarm & today, it has been revised. This leaves us wondering if this is a genuine mistake”.
The changes later made
Ban on prospecting mining
At the beginning of this year, the government of Ghana announced a temporal ban on all forms of prospecting activities within forest reserves across the country as it tackles illegal mining.
The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, issued the order.
A statement released by the minister said “The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources hereby directs persons and/or companies engaged in reconnaissance and/or prospecting in Forest Reserves, with or without legal authorization, to suspend such activities until further notice…,”
“The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, accordingly, hereby gives persons and/or companies engaged in reconnaissance and/or prospecting in Forest Reserves, seven (7) days from the date of the publication of this notice, to cease their operations and evacuate their equipment accordingly”.
Furthermore, the Minerals Commission has been directed not to accept, process and/or recommend the grant, including renewal and/or extension of reconnaissance and prospecting licences in Forest Reserves.
The directive by the Minister followed a National Consultative Dialogue on Small Scale Mining which was dominated by illegal mining and its harmful impact on the environment.
Among the resolutions adopted at the dialogue was a charge to the government to take steps to strictly apply laws and sanctions to all persons who infringe the law, irrespective of political colour or socio-economic status or class.
A treasure of biodiversity
Located in Ghana’s Eastern Region, Atewa Forest forms part of the threatened Upper Guinea Forest, one of the world’s global biodiversity hotpots. Atewa Forest is a Protected Forest Reserve, a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and meets the conditions for Alliance for Zero Extinction status.
The forest is home to many endangered, endemic and rare plants and animals, over 100 of which are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Four species are listed as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, and many more as vulnerable.
The forest is also home to five species believed to be endemic to the forest, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth. As a critical watershed, the forest is also the source for the Birim, Densu and Ayensu rivers, which provide water for some 5 million people, including residents of the capital, Accra.
Atewa for national park
The Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin has been pushing for the shift towards developing the Atewa forest reserve into a national park.
Last year, he called on government through the Ministry of Tourism to shift attention towards developing the Atewa forest rather than mining its gold.
The revered king said this at the Ofori Panin Fie at Kyebi when Tourism Minister Dr. Awal Mohammed, his Deputy, Mark Okraku-Mantey, and officials from the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) paid a courtesy call on him last year.
“Develop a national park at Atewa forest, the species that God has given us there is phenomenal but if we begin to look at gold and its recklessness of galamsey and other things in the forest, we would never get there,” the Okyenhene said.
Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin continued, “Gold would go away. It is not a renewable resource. The reckless felling of timber is a disregard for our nature. Build a museum in addition to the park that would tell our history and show artefacts.”