Mr Joseph Annor Asare, a Unit Committee Member at Akyem Juaso in the Fanteakwa South District of the Eastern Region has told an Accra High Court that, any decision to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest would adversely affect the community.
The Atewa forest reserve is an upland forest and the Juaso community lies below it, and according to the Unit Committee Member, the mining would spell doom for the residents as they would be forced to relocate.
“I have seen bauxite mining in various documentaries including some explosives that are buried in the mining zone which causes a heavy explosion and dust pollution which is not good for the health of people”, Asare told the court.
The submission by Mr Asare did not go down well with Leona Johnson-Abassah, a State Attorney who led the cross-examination of the witness and asked him if he was not aware of any modern technology in the mining of bauxite.
She went further to explain to him that, there is a modern technology in bauxite mining that does not require explosives like dynamite nor cause dust to pollute the air.
The witness however disagreed vehemently, saying that bauxite mining involves the digging of the earth and once the ground is dug, there would be a cloud of dust at all costs which would cause air pollution and affect the health of the people.
“I disagree with the assertion that bauxite mining can be done without destroying the earth and this is because no matter how scientifically you carry out the mining, you will touch the earth, and once the earth is touched, there will be dust”, he told the court.
According to the eyewitness, the Juaso community is already suffering from the brunt of illegal mining in the area as their water bodies are being destroyed.
“The water we drink comes from the forest so when the bauxite is mined, it will destroy the water bodies and put our lives in danger and the little education I have is that water is life so we may have to relocate”, he added.
The State Attorney described his fear of the imminent destruction of the water bodies due to the proposed bauxite mining as unfounded.
The state Attorney also challenged his claim that the mining activity might force the whole community to relocate, saying that none of the community members have expressed such intention even though illegal miners are already destroying their environment.
Mr Asare responded that, the illegal miners work on the low ground and the effect is minimal compared to the proposed bauxite mining which would be carried out on the upland of the forest where the water bodies are located and would be destroyed. He said the bauxite mining has no value to them and about 98 percent of the community members are seriously opposed to it.
When pressed hard by the State Attorney to prove the source of his survey, he revealed that, the community often holds durbar where residents are allowed to speak their minds on issues that bothered them, and they rejected the idea of bauxite mining in the Atewa forest. Asare said he fears the worst for people whose livelihoods depend on the forest.
“The Atewa Forest Reserve defines our livelihood. So, if anything should happen to the forest, our livelihood will also change. It will affect everybody living along the line and it is therefore important that the forest is reserved,” he told the court.
According to Mr Asare, it is very imperative that government substitute its intention to mine the bauxite with tourism as it is done in other countries like Kenya, to generate revenue for the country.
He said the Atewa forest reserve is a biodiversity hotspot and a home to a variety of different habitats including birds and monkeys He was with the opinion that, the government should cancel the proposed mining project and instead turn the forest into a national park.
“We believe that whatever we will get out of bauxite mining as at today, we equally beg that if we do the alternative, we will get several times what we will get and that will help Ghana today and the future while protecting our environment”, he added
About the case
On Monday, February 6, a hearing of the suit in which a group of environmentalists, climate change activists, individuals, civil society, and non governmental organizations have dragged the government to court over the prospecting bauxite mine in the Atewa Range Forest had commenced at the High Court in Accra.
Arocha Ghana and 10 other plaintiffs are challenging the government’s move to mine bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest contending that the government is undertaking mining activities in the Forest without mineral rights.
The Plaintiffs are urging the court to compel the government to restore or pay the cost of damages that had been caused as a result of recognizance, prospecting, and clearing of roads in the Forest.