The National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) has urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw permits issued to Newmont and Adamus Resources Ltd, both mining companies, to conduct surface mining in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve.
At a press conference in Accra on Thursday, the Legal Advisor to NCOM, Ms Millicent Gyan-Badu, said mining in that forest would cause irreparable damage to the forest, including native tree populations, life forms and soil structure, all of which would have adverse consequences on social, economic and scientific development.
She accused the EPA of using the environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted on mining in the Ajenua Bepo Forest to "subvert and undermine community concerns and public interest" and said neither the agency nor the two mining companies had the capacity to restore the reserve to its original status to perform its ecological and socio-economic functions.
Ms Gyan-Badu said when public hearings on mining in the forest began, NCOM made certain submissions to the EPA, stating why mining should not be allowed in the forest and the agency pledged to respond to those demands.
The coalition was, therefore, disappointed to learn that the agency, without responding to the concerns, had gone ahead to grant permits to the companies.
Stating NCOM's objections, she said it had been scientifically proved that forests and, indeed, vegetation in general were among the environmental media which played the essential functions of life support systems and repository of waste.
She said forests and forest reserves served as important catalysts for biodiversity, adding that the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve in particular was, among other things, very rich in biodiversity.
Ms Gyan-Badu intimated that the destruction of the reserve through surface gold mining would adversely affect the capacity of many rivers linked to the reserve to adequately discharge surface water for the benefit of thousands of people living along the banks of those rivers.
Closely linked to the issue of water, Ms Gyan-Badu said, was the potential effect of the destruction of the river ecosystem on the rainfall pattern in the area in particular. She added that publications attributed to the EPA attested to the fact that forests and tree population made important contributions to rainfall distribution.
She noted that the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve was linked to the cultural heritage of the adjoining communities, adding that the linkage provided opportunities and possibilities for alternative uses consistent with nature and culture.
She added that the environment impact statement (EIS) report produced by Newmont identified 18 major heritage sites, nine of which were of archaeological significance and two of pre-historic value, distributed around the concession to be mined.