A new regulation passed in November 2022 that opens up Ghana's forest reserves for large-scale mining has no legal foundation and should be repealed, civil society groups and other stakeholders have said.
L.I. 2462 titled, 'Environmental Protection (Mining in Forest Reserves) Regulations’ passed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), facilitates mining leases across vast portions of forest reserves and other protected areas that were previously off-limits to mining.
An analysis presented at the forum showed the regulation was enacted without proper legal authority and is inconsistent with Ghana's environmental laws and policies.
"The LI lacks a legislative foundation because the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1994 does not grant the Environment Minister the necessary authority to regulate the activities contained within LI2462," said Clement Akapame of the Taylor Crabbe Initiative, who provided a legal opinion after conducting a study into it.
"The LI does not carry legislative legitimacy to override or erode the protections conferred on land classified as Forest Reserves,” he stressed.
These issues were raised at a stakeholder forum organised by Nature and Development Foundation, A Rocha Ghana, Wacam and Oxfam in Thursday, November 9 at the Alisa Hotel in Accra, to examine LI2462's implications.
Attendees included civil society, research institutes, commissions, ministries and parliament.
According to the groups, L.I. 2462 contradicts Ghana's constitutional framework for natural resource management and undermines commitments to climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection. It also counters existing legislation and policies aimed at gradually excluding mining from forest reserves by 2036.
Since the regulation was passed, mining leases and lease applications have been granted in 14 forest reserves, including eight new leases, the groups noted.
They added that areas affected include three Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) and Kakum National Park, despite GSBAs being on the regulation's prohibited list.
"Until the LI was passed, the Forest Reserves had been relatively well protected from large-scale mining by existing legislation," said Mustapha Seidu, National Director of Nature and Development Foundation, adding, "This has all changed at an alarmingly rapid pace."
In a communique yet to be outdoored, civil society groups plan to formally call for LI2462's repeal and replacement with legislation that ensures the long-term survival of Ghana's forests.
"It may be a huge challenge, but we will not sit idly by while the government gives out the forests and protected areas for a few people and their mining companies to benefit from," Mustapha Seidu said.
"Ghana's forests are for everyone, especially the local forest communities. The LI2462 must be repealed NOW!" he emphasised.