Three global manufacturing companies – BMW Group, Tetra Pak and Schűco International KG have responded to concerns over the proposed use of aluminium to be mined from the bauxite deposit in the Atewa Forest reserve.

Their positions have been communicated in letters to the Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape (CCAL), the grassroots movement advocating against bauxite mining in Atewa Forest.

The three companies are all members of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) established to certify members and their products in the bauxite-aluminium supply chain that meet its sustainability standards.

While the companies recognise the Ghana government’s desire to develop the aluminium sector for economic development and poverty reduction, they have firmly stated that, their commitments to sustainability would not be compromised.

All three companies pointed to their endorsement of the ASI’s social and environmental standards, and said they also want their suppliers to meet these same standards.

The BMW Group, a founding member of the ASI, said “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”.

Tetra Pak on its part said that “sourcing aluminium produced with bauxite mined in the Atewa Range Forest Reserve at Kyebi in Eastern Ghana 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”

Schűco said “it would therefore 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”.

The companies’ letters concerning Atewa-sourced bauxite followed soon after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) passed a resolution demanding global action to save Atewa from bauxite mining, serving as yet another strong call to drop the plans to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest.

With the announcement by the giant manufacturing companies, if bauxite from Atewa forms part of Ghana’s aluminium supply, the state-owned GIADEC risks outright rejection of all Ghana’s bauxite and aluminium by responsible aluminium users.

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.

Chocolate-backed Kingfisher: one of 155 bird species found in the Atewa Forest Reserver. Image by Nik Borrow via Flickr (CC BY-NC-2.0)

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.

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.

Threats to the forest

In July 2018, Ghana’s parliament approved an agreement with China’s Sinohydro Corporation Limited to build infrastructure projects including roads, hospitals, landfill sites, and industrial parks.

The Ghana government therefore identified the legally protected Atewa Forest as one of three sites to mine bauxite to support repayment of the USD 2 billion infrastructure loan from the People’s Republic of China.

Through GIADEC, plans are far advance by government to establish an integrated aluminium industry, to repay the loan with receipts from processed bauxite.

But, campaigners advocating for protection of the Atewa Forest have repeatedly stated that, mining bauxite in the Atewa Forest would not meet ASI’s requirements.

According to them, bauxite mining in Atewa would threaten species with global extinction, undermining the Convention on Biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals that both set clear targets to stop extinctions.

Mr. Oteng Adjei, President of CCAL, said “Saving Atewa Forest from mining should be an intergenerational priority, and we are happy and grateful that big businesses in the aluminium value chain understand the importance of a healthy forest and the environmental services it provides. We appreciate their commitment to supporting local and international efforts to secure Atewa Forest against bauxite mining that is certain to destroy the forest, its water services and biodiversity.”

By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda