The planned two-day picketing by the Coalition of Environmental NGOs in Accra to kick against a retrogressive Environmental Protection legal instrument has been suspended following security concerns raised by the Ghana Police Service. The picketing was to take place at Parliament House and the Minerals Commission office from Thursday 27 July to Friday 28 July. According to the organisers of the picketing, the Police reached out to them yesterday raising security concerns even though they gave them the required notice. The organisers assured that, the new date will be communicated soon. The Coalition of Environmental NGOs is demanding the scrapping of a new Legislative Instrument (LI) which puts no restriction on mining in Ghana’s forest reserves. The NGOs are A Rocha Ghana, Eco-Conscious Citizens, Youth Alliance Green Ghana, Ghana Youth Environment Movement, Ghana Environment Advocacy Group, Atronsu Farmers and Youth Anti community/small-scale mining Group, Daby Foundation, SOY Africa, Youth Volunteers for the Environment, and AbibiNsroma Foundation. Addressing a press conference on June 9, Deputy Director of A Rocha Ghana, Mr Daryl Bosu revealed that, in November 2022, a new Legislative Instrument L.I. 2462 ‘Environmental Protection (Mining in Forest Reserves) Regulations’ was quietly passed and Civil Society only became aware of this clandestine action by the EPA and government in March 2023. He said, while the 2018 ‘Environmental Guidelines for Mining in Production Forest Reserves in Ghana’ that preceded the new L.I. allowed a maximum of 2% of the production areas of forest reserves to be mined, the new regulations have no such restriction. “Consequently, after the L.I. was passed, mining permits covering large portions of forest reserves have been granted, including Nkrabia, Boin Tano, Anhwiaso East, and Tano Anwia”, he said. Mr Bosu revealed further that, the 2018 Environmental Guidelines excluded Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) such as Tano Offin and Atewa Range Forest Reserves from any mining or exploration but under the new L.I., however, the President can approve mining in these uniquely critical areas if it is “in the national interest”. He added “It appears this relates directly to government’s bauxite mining plans for these two GSBAs. That said, the Boin Tano Forest Reserve – also a GSBA – is already under a gold mining lease that was applied for and granted as soon as the L.I. was passed. It is not known if this lease has the mandatory Presidential approval, or even how it can be in the ‘national interest’”. He said, while the L.I.’s procedures for minerals prospecting – currently banned in all forest reserves – are very strict, those for mining are not, adding that, available evidence suggests that mining companies are going directly for full mining leases to access the reserves without initial prospecting. He asked ‘Is this legal, and does this mean they will be prospecting under a mining lease”. He explained that, under the L.I., a mineral right holder is required to establish and manage an area at least 3x the size of the mining concession as a biodiversity offset and communities need to be very wary because this would affect their lands. He said, there is also no firm requirement for forest restoration and a mineral right holder can instead offset reclamation by establishing a plantation at least 3x the impacted area. “There is a significant weakening of the 2018 Environmental Regulations that civil society considers completely unacceptable and a very grave threat to the future of Ghana’s forest reserves that all Ghanaians depend on for ecosystem services. Rather than regulating for environmental protection, it appears the new L.I. aims to support permission for mining across 100% of Ghana’s forest reserves”. He noted that, the government remains silent on forest damage by mineral rights holders and instead places all the blame on galamsey. He, therefore, demanded that the L.I is scrapped.