THREE global manufacturing giants – BMW Group, Tetra Pak and Schüco International – say they are worried about planned mining of bauxite in Ghana’s Atewa forest.
According to the companies, they would be unwilling to accept bauxite mined from this forest due to the catastrophic and irreversible effects on the people and wildlife that depend on the forest.
The government of Ghana plans to exploit bauxite deposits in the Atewa Forest Reserve in a deal which will see the country benefit from $2bn worth of infrastructure projects from the China Development Bank in exchange for the mineral.
The Sinohydro barter deal which was approved by Parliament in 2019 is expected to address the road infrastructure deficit in the country.
Although the first tranche of the money – $500 million – is yet to be released, movements have already started in clearing access roads into the Atewa Forest Reserve for commencement of the bauxite mining.
Many Ghanaians have signed onto an online petition launched to stop the mining of bauxite in one of the country’s key forest reserves.
Environmentalists in Ghana have been fighting the government over the decision to allow for the mining of bauxite in the Forest.
Ghanaian environmental groups like ARocha Ghana, Wildlife Society of Ghana, Rainforest Trust, Friends of the Earth-Ghana have been piling pressure of government to stop all mining and prospecting activities in the Reserve warning of dire consequences for the country.
They argue that there is a variety of ecosystem service and other benefits that supersede the financial gains the country may derive from mining bauxite in the forest in the short term.
What manufacturing companies are saying
BMW Group, Tetra Pak and Schüco International are all members of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), established to certify the production and supply of aluminium including bauxite extraction.
In the letters from the companies Schüco said it ‘would oblige our aluminium suppliers not to supply aluminium derived from bauxite mined in the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, and we intend to encourage other aluminium users to join us in this commitment.’
According to Tetra Pak, ‘Sourcing aluminium produced from bauxite mined in the Atewa Range Forest Reserve… presents a level of risk that is completely unacceptable to Tetra Pak. No matter how high the environmental standards that are applied, any form of mining at this site will have an unavoidable destructive impact on the values inherent in such a natural habitat.’
Meanwhile BMW Group said in the letter that ‘Bauxite from the region of the Atewa Forest needs to be in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UNFCCC Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Ghana’s voluntary national contributions towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. If this is not the case the BMW Group will not accept aluminium in its supply chains that originates bauxite from the Atewa Forest.’
International organisations such as American Bird Conservancy, Amphibian Survival Alliance, BirdLife International, Guyra Paraguay, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Global Wildlife Conservation, the Rainforest Trust, Synchronicity Earth, WWF have joined forces to bring pressure to bear of the government of Ghana.
‘Ensuring that our consumption nurtures nature rather than destroying and depleting it is a critical step for which we must all take responsibility. We salute these companies for setting the standard to help save the Atewa Forest,’ says Patricia Zurita, Chief Executive of BirdLife International.
Designated as a Forest Reserve in 1926, the Atewa forest is also a critical water source, housing the headwaters of the Birim, Densu and Ayensu rivers, which provide water to local communities as well as millions of people downstream, including in the capital, Accra.
The Atewa Forest is home to at least 50 mammal species, more than 1,000 species of plants, at least 230 species of birds and more than 570 butterflies.
The Forest Reserve is located in Kyebi in the Eastern Region of Ghana, the President’s hometown.
Civil society groups are demanding answers from the President regarding the decision to embark on the mining activities with the potential of destroying the reserve in his own backyard.
In 2019, Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo however assured that the ecosystem of the Atewa Forest will not be gravely impacted with the mining activities.
According to him, the cutting edge technology to be deployed will ensure protection of the animal and plant species.
‘The technology of today is much more sensitive to these issues because of the pressure that is being brought on the bauxite and oil companies to take it into account.
‘So, to some extent, beginning now, the full-scale exploitation of Ghanaian bauxite resources, we are in a better place, technology-wise, than we would have been 20, 30 years ago,’ the President said.