Save Ghana’s Natural Heritage: Halt Illegal Logging & Gold Mining
Feature Article of Saturday, 2 March 2013
Columnist: Thompson, Kofi
By Kofi Thompson
Today, many mainstream media outlets in Ghana, such as Peace FM, regularly carry news reports that focus on the long-term dangers posed by surface gold mining and illegal logging – particularly the destruction of eco-systems that affect the headwaters of the major river systems that are the sources of treated drinking-water for cities and towns in our country.
That really is a heartening development for those of us who for nearly two decades have fought against illegal logging and surface gold mining in the Ghanaian countryside – because of the detrimental effect it has on the natural environment.
Realising its effect on our quality of life, many Ghanaians are now showing concern that soils, rivers and streams across vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside are being contaminated and poisoned by dangerous chemicals and heavy metals used by illegal gold miners, such as cyanide and mercury.
They are alarmed by the fact that the problem has become so dangerous that it has evolved to a point where well-armed men prepared to kill even soldiers of the Ghana Armed Forces, now guard land being mined for gold and logged illegally.
Yet, years ago some of us – then risking our lives fighting to halt the illegal activities of Solar Mining Limited, which was using a bankrupt Kibi Goldfields, into which it was trying to reverse, as legal cover – made the point that the phenomenon of warlords could occur in Ghana too, because of the lack of political will to deal with the wealthy and well-connected criminal syndicates operating in places such as Akyem Abuakwa, who were behind most of the illegal gold mining and logging in the area.
Warlords came into being in Liberia and Sierra Leone, mainly because lawlessness was the perfect cover for greedy and powerful individuals intent on grabbing resource-rich areas in those two nations, and exploiting the timber and gold found in them unhindered.
Environmental organisations such as A Rocha, the Ghana Wildlife Society and Friends of Rivers and Water-bodies must seize the moment.
Let them work with anti-mining organisations such as Wassa Communities Against Mining (WACAM), to protect ecologically sensitive areas like the Atewa Range upland evergreen rain forest from the madness of the idea of mining bauxite there for manufacturing aluminium that will never be competitive globally.
At a time of global climate change, the Republic of Guinea, not the Atewa Range, should be the source of bauxite for an integrated sub-regional aluminium industry for West Africa, not just Ghana.
If we want to protect our quality of life, at all costs we must protect the Atewa Range upland evergreen rain forest.
We must prevent what is an essential building-block for our long-term well-being and survival, at a time of global warming, being sacrificed for the dubious short-term benefit that mining bauxite for aluminium represents, from being destroyed.
It is one of the most important eco-systems services providers in Ghana and a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA).
We must save what is the source of the Densu, the Pra and the Birim – the three major river systems that provide drinking-water for cities like Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, Sekondi and Takoradi for our children and their children’s children.
We are faced with what in effect is an existential threat.
To prevent irreversible long-term damage, President Mahama’s administration must declare war on the illegal gold miners and loggers who are gang-raping Mother Nature and destroying what is left of our natural heritage.
The coordinating role in the crucial task of rooting them out of rural Ghana must be given to the Ghana Armed Forces.
For the sake of present and future generations of Ghanaians, we must save what remains of our natural heritage – by rooting out illegal logging and surface gold mining nationwide. A word to the wise…