IUCN Passes Resolution to Stop Bauxite Mining in Atewa Forest
The International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) has passed a resolution adopted by its members for urgent measures to safeguard the Atewa Forest.
The motion was brought by A Rocha Ghana with co-sponsors and IUCN members – The Development Institute, Benin Environment and Education Society ONG, Nature Tropicale ONG, and international IUCN members A Rocha International, WWF, Birdlife International, Global Wildlife Conservation, Rainforest Trust, Synchronicity Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The resolution gained 5 African state member YES votes – 4 from Ghana’s neighbouring countries – and 31 Chinese NGO member votes – the second largest number of any individual country after the US – in support of the resolution.
According to the Union, mining bauxite in the Atewa Forest is fundamentally inconsistent with international commitments.
Therefore, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2020, at its session in Marseille, France, urged the Government of Ghana to immediately and permanently halt all mining-related operations and other destructive activities in Atewa Forest; and establish a national park over the entirety of Atewa Forest to ensure its conservation in perpetuity”
IUCN also urged the donor community to provide the financial assistance needed to build a world-class protected area in the Atewa Forest, as well as for supporting green developments within the landscape.
IUCN stated in the resolution that, in the event that the Government of Ghana still attempt to go ahead to mine Bauxite in Atewa Forest Reserve contrary to the provisions of the resolution, it “strongly requests all companies in the mining sector not to participate in any mining activities in or near Atewa Forest and all companies using aluminium to ensure that no aluminium from Atewa Forest enters their supply chains; requests the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative to assist companies to ensure that aluminium from Atewa does not enter their supply chains and urge their member companies not to become involved in mining activities in or near the Atewa Forest”
Additionally, “urges all financial institutions to ensure that they provide no finance in any form for any mining or other destructive activities in or near Atewa Forest”
The resolution requested the Director-General, in view of the extreme urgency of the situation in the Atewa Forest, to provide a special report to the next session of the World Conservation Congress on the implementation of this Resolution.
The Union explained that Atewa Forest in the Eastern Region of Ghana is one of the most important places in West Africa for biodiversity conservation, being a rare example of ‘upland evergreen’ forest, with over 100 species listed in the Threatened or Near Threatened categories of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species; noting that at least two species in Atewa are Critically Endangered, and a further two are likely to become so when assessed and that one plant species, two butterflies and one frog are endemic to Atewa;
It stated that Atewa Forest is a critical water source, housing the headwaters of the Birim, Densu and Ayensu Rivers, which provide water to local communities as well as to millions of people downstream, including in Accra;
Despite appreciating the establishment of a Forest Reserve at Atewa in 1926 and its formal protection by the government of Ghana in the decades following independence, it is alarmed however that in June 2019, in the absence of an environmental impact assessment, the Ghanaian authorities started clearing access roads to the summit of the Atewa Forest to allow test-drilling for bauxite.
IUCN is deeply concerned that strip mining for bauxite would irrecoverably damage the Atewa Forest, resulting in species extinctions and highly degraded water sources.
The Union is appreciative of the commitment of His Excellency The President of the Republic of Ghana to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD);, and effort to develop the aluminium industry in Ghana, however, reminded him that mining bauxite at Atewa is not critical to this industry.
Atewa Forest No-Go area for Bank financing Campaign
At the back of the IUCN resolution, a newly-launched international campaign demanding banks stop financing projects linked to biodiversity loss and social damage has incorporated Atewa Forest as a critical case due to the banking sector’s links to the proposed bauxite mining.
By providing finance, banks have a vital role in determining whether a proposed project goes ahead or not. As some of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change are large scale projects such as mining and energy development, they need finance. By saying no to financing damaging projects in landscapes vital for biodiversity, ecosystem services and supporting local communities’ needs, banks can decide to stop contributing to this damage.
Recognising the banking sector’s critical role in environmental damage, the Banks and Biodiversity campaign aims to hold banks to account for the biodiversity and community impacts of their finance. It is doing this by urging banks to adopt a ‘No Go Policy’ that would mean they do not finance environmentally or socially damaging activities in or near sensitive areas.
The Atewa Forest case is one of nine highlighted by the campaign. As is widely known, Sinohydro is securing loans from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), or any other bank it selects, to pay for Ghana’s infrastructure projects. These loans will be repaid with receipts from Ghana’s refined bauxite. Also well known is that Atewa Forest is one of the locations proposed for mining the required bauxite. Because of this, the Atewa Forest campaign has been requesting the ICBC and several other Chinese banks to reject any finance proposals linked directly or indirectly to bauxite mined in the Atewa Forest.
This demand remains current: the ICBC or any other bank approached for financing should reject the requests until Atewa Forest is removed from the bauxite mining plans.
This call for rejection is now strengthened by the Banks and Biodiversity campaign, as the Atewa Forest case fits with 6 of the policy’s 8 No-Go areas:
Area 1 covers landscapes recognised internationally for their critical biodiversity and ecosystem services. Atewa Forest is designated a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area as part of Ghana’s commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity and also a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA).
Area 2 covers landscapes recognised nationally or locally and protected by country laws or regulations. Atewa Forest is a Protected Forest Reserve under Ghana’s forest laws.
Area 3 covers habitats with endemic or endangered species. Atewa Forest is a critical habitat for the endangered and endemic White-naped Mangabey, Afia Birago Puddle Frog, Atewa Dotted Border butterfly and many more besides.
Area 4 covers intact primary forests and vulnerable secondary forests. Atewa is one of Ghana’s last remaining intact old-growth forests.
Area 5 covers free-flowing rivers unaffected by human activities. Atewa harbours the headwaters of three such rivers that provide clean water daily for 5 million Ghanaians both within the forest and downstream to Ghana’s capital Accra.
Area 7 covers any area where the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of traditional communities has not been obtained, including sacred sites and/or lands with ancestral significance to local communities. Free, prior and informed consent has not been obtained, and this is evidenced clearly by the actions of the Concerned Citizens of the Atewa Landscape representing the many local communities resisting the proposed mining. Atewa Forest also contains sacred groves, chiefs’ burial grounds, and sacred animals.
The just-ended Finance in Common Summit in France has been targeted by the Banks and Biodiversity campaign with a letter to the French Development Agency and participating Public Development Banks to advocate for their adoption of the No Go Policy. Focused on ‘Building resilience for people and planet’, the summit intends to trigger support from the finance community for common action on climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The No Go Policy strengthens the demands of the IUCN resolution and the wider Atewa campaign demanding that Atewa Forest must be protected from bauxite mining and that no further bauxite-linked loans should be delivered to Ghana until Atewa Forest is permanently removed from the bauxite mining agreement.