The 2020 general election is over and the Electoral Commission of Ghana has declared President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo as winner of the fiercely contested race.
But, as the president await to be sworn into office on January 7, 2021, to serve his second term, ghenvironment.org is looking at how his term will affect the work of environmentalists in the country.
Atewa Bauxite Mining
Ghenvironment.org can predict that, the year 2021 will be very tough for Non- governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders trying to stop government from mining bauxite in the Atewa forest reserve.
The government of Ghana had locked horns with some NGOs and Civil Society Organisations over decision to mine bauxite in the Atewa forest, which is located in the Eastern part of Ghana.
According to those resisting the proposed mining in the forest, Ghanaians derived many benefits from the reserve and this include the source of water for millions of people in the country.
It is also a home to many vulnerable and endangered species. The white-naped mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus) is found there, and what may be the last viable population of the critically endangered Togo slippery frog (Conraua derooi). Among 155 bird species recorded in the reserve are the brown-cheeked hornbill (Bycanistes cylindricus) and the Nimba flycatcher (Melaenornis annamarulae). The reserve also hosts 17 species of rare butterflies, half of which are found nowhere else in Ghana, including the African giant swallowtail (Papilio antimachus), with a wingspan of up to 23 centimeters (9 inches). New species continue to be found here, such as the endemic Atewa dotted border (Mylothris atewa), a butterfly recorded nowhere else, and a new species of hooded spider, Ricinoides atewa.
There are about 30 communities — around 50,000 people — in the area. Most residents grow cocoa alongside food crops. They also enter the forest in search of bushmeat, snails, honey, mushrooms, and wild fruit.
Despite all these benefits being derived from the forest, the government of Ghana has decided to mine the bauxite deposit in the forest.
Thus, 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 Master Project Support Agreement will also see the electricity grid extended to more rural communities. Ghana is to pay for these with $2 billion worth of refined bauxite.
In June 2019, GIADEC started clearing access roads to the summit of the Atewa forest to allow test drilling for bauxite deposits it believes amounts to 150 million to 180 million metric tons and it has since announced the completion of the test drilling. What is left to be done now is the announcement of the company that will be given the greenlight to mine the bauxite in the forest.
But, NGOs like Arocha Ghana and its allies have also vowed to resist the mining in the forest, proposing national park in replacement of the mining. It recently secured a massive vote by members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) adopting Motion 103 calling for ‘Urgent measures to safeguard the globally important Atewa Forest, Ghana’.
The motion urges government to end all mining-related activities in the Atewa Forest and establish a National Park to ensure its conservation in perpetuity. It also requests support from the international community to help establish it as a world- class protected area complete with green development initiatives.
But from all indications the government is still interested in the exploration of the bauxite in the Atewa forest and with the second term in office assured, tough time awaits Arocha Ghana and its allies to stop the government or convince it to adopt the national park option.
Agyapa Mining Royalties
Another issue that will also be getting all the attention in the second term of President Akufo Addo is the controversial Agyapa mining royalties which has already led to the resignation of the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu.
Government has defended the Agyapa deal describing it as the best deal for Ghana’s gold. Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister for Finance who been defending the Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited arrangement not long ago expressed his joy about the listing of Agyapa Royalty Company in London as the first royalty company of that nature in Africa.
The Finance Minister bemoaned the situation where a country like Ghana that had mined gold since the 15th century with the Portuguese could not boast of any international listed company either in gold or in cocoa.
But, the curious thing about the deal is that, Ghana is proposing to sell almost 76% of its future receipts from gold royalties to special corporate vehicle in the British overseas territory of Jersey known as tax haven and secrecy jurisdiction.
The controversy that surrounded the deal before the December general elections led to its suspension by government, even though it later referred the deal back to parliament to enable them go through.
With the election over and second term assured, Ghanaians and other Civil Society Organizations are waiting with bated breath to see what will happen.
Eyes are watching!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda