THE Okyeman Students Union of the University of Ghana, Legon, has threatened to mobilise the entire youth of the region to halt the expansion of mining activities in forest reserves if Government does not intervene to bring an end to the controversial expansions.
“We are prepared to lead the fight against mining firms and their local economic agents against the rape and destruction of our country,” they said, in a statement signed by the Union press secretary Daniel Marfo Ofori-Atta and copied to President John Agyekum Kufour.
They were responding to plans recently released by Newmont, a leading gold mining firm, and ALCOA, a bauxite mining company, to operate in the North Birim (Atiwa Forest) and Kyebi concessionary areas respectively. Of particular concern is the granting of concessionary rights in the Atiwa Forest, described in the statement as “the pride of Akyem.”
“We believe that this is against natural interest considering the potential catastrophic ecological effect,” it continued. “We are aware of the ecologically strategic importance of the Atiwa forest and we insist that clearing the forest for mining activity will cause the nation an irreparable loss.”
The entire youth of Okyeman would be organised to resist the encroachment of mining activities on the forest reserves, the Union promised, and would “cooperate with broader social groups, trade unions, student unions and mining communities to halt the exploitation of the Atiwa forest reserve and all forest reserves in the country.”
It cited lack of commitment to social responsibilities by mining companies in the areas they operate. “Over the years mining industries yielded no economic benefit to the inhabitants of the mining areas. It has also rid them of every form of livelihood as consequence of the destruction of farmlands, poisoning of rivers, streams and other forms of ecological disasters.”
The students called upon Government to halt all exploratory and mining projects in the forest reserves in the Eastern Region, and to immediately review the terms of engagement of mining firms, enforce environmental standards and ensure that the socio-economic interests of mining communities are protected. The Union is also calling for a review of the country's mining laws, as well as the outright withdrawal of the new Mining Bill, “which has only come to further serve the interests of foreign mining firms,” according to the statement.
“Okyeman would not become an unconscious play thing in the hands of greedy foreign mining companies and their local economic agents and political collaborators,” the students assert.