The decision by the government of Ghana through the Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Corporation (GIADEC) to mine bauxite in the Atewa forest reserve has suffered another blow as the Finance In Common Summit has identified the Atewa Forest as a “No-GO” area for bank financing.

This was after a newly-launched international campaign demanding banks stop financing projects linked to biodiversity loss and social damage led to the incorporation of the Atewa Forest as a critical case due to the banking sector’s links to the proposed bauxite mining.

It should be noted that, the proposal to mine the bauxite in the Atewa forest has been met with fierce resistance from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) both in Ghana and abroad. According to those opposing the mining of the bauxite, the Atewa forest is a habitat to many endangered species, as well as a source of good drinking water for about five million Ghanaians.

The CSOs have therefore employed many strategies to stop the destruction of the forest, with the recent one being an international campaign demanding banks to resist the temptation of financing the bauxite mining project.

Recognising the banking sector’s critical role in environmental damage, the Banks and Biodiversity campaign aims to hold banks to account for the biodiversity and community impacts of their finance. It is doing this by urging banks to adopt a ‘No Go Policy’ that would mean they do not finance environmentally or socially damaging activities in or near sensitive areas.

The summit which is the first global meeting of public development banks, forms part of the 2020 Paris Peace Forum and was convened by Agence francaise de développement, in partnership with the African Development Bank, under the high patronage of French President Emmanuel Macron, with the participation of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The Atewa Forest case is one of nine highlighted by the campaign. As is widely known, Sinohydro is securing loans from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), or any other bank it selects, to pay for Ghana’s infrastructure projects. These loans will be repaid with receipts from Ghana’s refined bauxite including that of the Atewa Forest. Because of this, the Atewa Forest campaign has been requesting the ICBC and several other Chinese banks to reject any finance proposals linked directly or indirectly to bauxite mined in the Atewa Forest.

This call for rejection is now strengthened by the Banks and Biodiversity campaign, as the Atewa Forest case fits with 6 of the policy’s 8 No-Go areas:

Area 1 covers landscapes recognised internationally for their critical biodiversity and ecosystem services. Atewa Forest is designated a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area as part of Ghana’s commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity and also a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA).

Area 2 covers landscapes recognised nationally or locally and protected by country laws or regulations. Atewa Forest is a Protected Forest Reserve under Ghana’s forest laws.

Area 3 covers habitats with endemic or endangered species. Atewa Forest is a critical habitat for the endangered and endemic White-naped Mangabey, Afia Birago Puddle Frog, Atewa Dotted Border butterfly and many more besides.

Area 4 covers intact primary forests and vulnerable secondary forests. Atewa is one of Ghana’s last remaining intact old growth forests.

Area 5 covers free-flowing rivers unaffected by human activities. Atewa harbours the headwaters of three such rivers that provide clean water daily for 5 million Ghanaians both within the forest and downstream to Ghana’s capital Accra.

Area 7 covers any area where the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of traditional communities has not been obtained, including sacred sites and/or lands with ancestral significance to local communities. Free, prior and informed consent has not been obtained, and this is evidenced clearly by the actions of the Concerned Citizens of the Atewa Landscape representing the many local communities resisting the proposed mining. Atewa Forest also contains sacred groves, chiefs’ burial grounds, and sacred animals.

The decision taken by the Finance In Common Summit follows the recent overwhelming international support for the IUCN resolution demanding urgent measures to safeguard the globally important Atewa Forest from bauxite mining.

The resolution gained five African state member YES votes – four from Ghana’s neighbouring countries – and 31 Chinese NGO member votes – the second largest number of any individual country after the US – in support of the resolution.

The “No-Go” Policy therefore strengthens the demands of the IUCN resolution and the wider Atewa campaign demanding that Atewa Forest must be protected from bauxite mining, and that no further bauxite-linked loans should be delivered to Ghana until Atewa Forest is permanently removed from the bauxite mining agreement.