Forest loss and fragmentation, which generate various negative environmental and ecological consequences, have become widespread phenomena across Ghana. Motivation to investigate the underlying drivers is essential for land use planning and policy decision making. Addressing the threats to Atewa may be viewed from an understanding of the underlying drivers, deliberating on how these can be curtailed and deciding on the kind of actions at the national, local and individual levels that can be marshalled to address these.
Several drivers at different levels are perceived to be behind the illegal activities in the Atewa forest. At the national level three main drivers including a) Conflicting policies compromising the protection of Atewa forest; b) Weak policy implementation and compliance by various actors; and c) Political interests, from local to national level to derive quick economic benefits from illegal logging and mining albeit against the conservation and management status of the reserve (Agyare, 2016).
At the local level, the drivers of the illegal activities within the Atewa forest include the perceived lack of meaningful participation of local stakeholders in decision making and management of the Atewa Forest Reserve and a lack of direct economic benefits from the reserve to the local communities (Agyare, 2016). These drivers largely account for the countless number of threats to the Atewa forest. Today, the frequency, intensity and effectiveness of these threats are shifting as a result of human activities and global climate change, making the forest ecosystem even more prone to damage.
Potential Bauxite Mining Threats
Atewa is known to harbor mineralogical wealth including both gold and bauxite deposits, in addition to high biodiversity (McCullough, et al, 2007). While the bauxite deposit is yet to be mined, gold prospecting as well as small scale gold mining are widespread within the East Akyem Municipal and the Atiwa district. Three large companies are prospecting for gold at Adadientam, Adjapoma, Asiakwa and Asikam.
The Government of Ghana opened several forest reserves for mining in 2001, but Atewa was not included. However, the Government granted an exploration license to ALCOA to prospect for bauxite deposits in Atewa (McCullough, et al, 2007). Due to the fact that Atewa had been classified as a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA), ALCOA (Aluminium Corporation of America) entered into an agreement with Conservation International (CI) to assist them in better understanding the biodiversity context of Atewa in order to incorporate biodiversity into the company’s risk assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment of the project, should it proceed.
Its partnership involved applying CI’s Initial Biodiversity Assessment and Planning (IBAP) methodology to increase understanding of an area’s ecosystems and socio-economic dynamics and to provide recommendations for incorporating biodiversity considerations in the earliest stages of decision-making. Its partnership was formed in the spirit of providing significant gains for biodiversity conservation and industry, as well as for the government and people of Ghana.
Previously, ALCOA and CI had partnered successfully to utilize the IBAP methodology and conduct biodiversity surveys in Guinea (West Africa) and Suriname (South America). For Atewa, CI first worked with partners to conduct desktop and preliminary field research on Atewa’s biodiversity in 2005, followed by a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) survey in June 2006 to assess a wide range of taxa, as well as potential threats to and opportunities for conservation in Atewa. Following the RAP survey, a consultative workshop was held at the Palace of Paramount Chief Okyehene in Kibi on June 26, 2006 with participation from local community members and Chiefs, representatives from ALCOA and several NGOs, and the RAP scientists. At the consultative meeting, ALCOA demonstrated its commitment to protecting the biodiversity and the watershed of Atewa, while delivering economic benefits to the national economy.
In March 2011, Vimetco Ghana (Bauxite) Ltd., a 100% owned subsidiary of Vimetco N.V., (an international industrial group that focuses on the aluminium industry) obtained several prospecting licenses in Ghana. Based on these, they expected to receive exclusive rights for bauxite mining at Kibi (i.e Atiwa Forest Reserve) and Nyanahin (i.e. Tano Offin Forest Reserve, with a total area of 468.66 sq. km) for the period of more than 50 years. They have carried out a comprehensive geological survey in these areas and are expecting to get confirmation of quite significant reserves of bauxite that can form the basis for a plant to provide alumina for their Chinese smelters (Vimetco, Annual Report 2011). In 2010 the company therefore commissioned a Pre-Scoping Environmental Hydrological and Topographical Study involving stakeholder consultation and the consent of local community leaders in Kibi and Nyinahin Concessions as part of their plans for an Integrated Bauxite Project in Ghana.
These projects were however not approved for implementation largely due to the ecological sensitivity of the site expressed by the majority of key stakeholders. The reserves of bauxite, although of relatively low grade, are a potential threat to the survival of upland evergreen forest type (Hall & Swaine, 1981; Forestry Commission, 2003; CINRMP, 2003).
The frequently occurring threats include:
The video below shows the process of bauxite mining and why Atewa forest should be protected from all threats.
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