Atewa Forest (c) Jan Willem den Besten

NGOs file complaint: plans to mine bauxite in Atewa Range Forest violate right to a safe and healthy environment

A coalition of NGOs filed a notice of civil action against the Government of Ghana stating the plans to exploit the Atewa Range Forest for bauxite are in violation of the right to a safe and healthy environment.

Header photo: Atewa Forest (c) Jan Willem den Besten

On January 13, A Rocha Ghana, together with other NGOs and individuals, filed a notice of civil action against the Government of Ghana over its plans to exploit the Atewa Range Forest for bauxite. ‘With this action, we aim to protect and safeguard to environment,’ says Daryl Bosu of A Rocha Ghana. ‘Mining of bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest violates the right to life and dignity as enshired in the Constitution of Ghana.’

In 2017, the Republic of Ghana signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the People’s Republic of China to develop a bauxite industry in Ghana with Atewa Range Forest as one of the sources of raw materials. Following this disclosure, A Rocha Ghana with support from IUCN NL and a wide range of other institutions in Ghana and worldwide, spearheaded a campaign against the decision to mine bauxite at Atewa Range Forest.

Richer bauxite reserves available

The notice of civil action sets out that the group supports the government’s quest to develop Ghana and, as part of such efforts, to raise funds through various endeavours including exploiting the country’s resources. ‘However, Ghana does not need to exploit the Atewa Forest bauxite reserves,’ Bosu stresses. ‘According to information available to government, there are far richer bauxite reserves.’

Critical importance

The Atewa Range Forest is of critical importancance to the water supply system and biodiversity. ‘It protects the watershed for three major rivers and several other streams serving clean water to 5 million Ghanaians,’ Bosu explains.

Atewa Forest has been traditionally managed for water production, catchment protection, biodiversity conservation and recreation, all of which are incompatible with bauxite mining. In addition, the forest is classified as Globally Significant Biodiversity Area and as a protected forest reserve, for which all mining activities are to be excluded.

From petitions and marches to legal action

A Rocha Ghana mobilized over 20 civil society organisations and various communities to join their plea for the protection of Atewa Range Forest. The group sent letters to both the Presidency and Parliament, organized several marches to create awareness among Ghanaians and over 160,000 individuals across the globe have added their names to a petition calling for Atewa Range Forest to be protected.

While this has resulted in various articles on local and international media and a twitter message by Leonardo di Caprio to inform, educate and win support to protect Atewa Range Forest, the government of Ghana consistently demonstrates no interest.  

‘It is unfortunate that we have to fight our own government to protect the environment,’ Bosu states. ‘But it is against this background that we serve the notice to bring a legal suit against the Government of Ghana should they fail to exclude Atewa Range Forest from the bauxite mining project.’

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IUCN NL has been supporting A Rocha Ghana’s fight for the protection of the Atewa Range Forest since 2014, currently in the framework of the Green Livelihoods Alliance, a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Tropenbos International.

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Sander van Andel
Senior Expert Nature Conservation
Maartje Hilterman
Project Leader – Forests for a Just Future
Jan Kamstra
no longer working at IUCN NL