A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) on environmental terrain has made an urgent call for government to revoke Legislative Instrument (L.I. 2462) – a law that they say allows unrestricted mining in the country’s forest reserves.

While describing the L.I. as retrogressive, the coalition called for immediate steps to repeal the law which gives unfettered access to mining in forest reserves. Anything less than this, they warned, could result in the country losing its position as one of the top destinations on the continent for abundant forest reserves. They also cautioned that key tourism and forested areas such as the Kakum National Park and others could soon be lost if the law is not repealed.

They bemoan that while they are yet to recover from the shock of escalated mining practices in the country’s forest reserves barely a year after the law’s passage, they are appealing for government to quickly revoke permits for mining-related activities in forest reserves, as this is destroying the ecological integrity of the country’s forest reserves.

According to the coalition, the number of mining leases granted entities to mine in reserved areas has increased to eight: the Draw River Forest Reserve and GSBA, ML2/236; Betterland Ghana, Neung South Forest Reserve and GBSA, ML2/229; Kapsord Mining Limited, Boin Tano Forest Reserve and GSBA, APL-M-100; Unipower Mining company limited, Mamiri Forest Reserve, Ml2/230; Nana Ansah Resources Limited, Nkrabia Forest Reserve, ML6/228; Hapic Mining limited, Anwhiaso Forest Reserve, MILLAYER/222; Koantwi mining company limited and Oda River FR, ML6/238; Sam Gyan Limited; Tano Anwia Forest Reserve APL-M-101; and clean job Ghana.

In addition, they said 12 more applications for mining leases are pending approval – lamenting that at this pace “it is very destructive to the country’s precious natural resources, which are already combatting the scourge of illegal mining practices”.

This was revealed during a stakeholder’s engagement about the new regulations on mining in Ghana’s Forest Reserves to examine the legislative policy implications of the new law (L.I 2462), which took place in Accra.

More disturbingly, the coalition said its analysis shows that mining leases have been granted or are currently being applied for in several parts of the country’s 14 reserves – which also include three globally significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) and the well-known Kakum National Park, since enactment of L.I. 2462 in November 2022.

The forum also brought attention to the L.I.’s inconsistency with the country’s important environmental policies and international commitments on biodiversity and climate change.

In attendance at the forum were representatives of forest communities, civil societies, development partners, research institutions, the Forestry and Minerals Commissions, relevant ministries, and Environmental Protection Agency, legal and policy experts.

Among other things, the participants questioned the legitimacy of L.I. 2462, saying it has no legislative backing and as such is inconsistent with environmental protection policies.

Describing the provision as a key driver of deforestation and degradation, the coalition reiterated that the country is on the verge of losing its abundant vegetation: “It is not far-fetched to say that in a few years the country will no longer be able to proudly showcase its previously plentiful forest reserves, as the ecological integrity of these reserves is being compromised”.

Mustapha Seidu, Director-Nature and Development Foundation, one of the CSOs leading the call for repealing the L.I., highlighted the need to create awareness about passage of the law and its repercussions on the country.

“We brought a lot of stakeholders here because we want them to know about the passage of this law and the impact it is going to have on everybody. It doesn’t matter how far you live away from the forest,” he stated.

Mr. Seidu bemoaned that forest reserves were relatively well-protected from large-scale mining before the law was passed. Unfortunately, he said, passage of the law is having a devastating impact on the country’s forest reserves.

Shrouded in secrecy

The group noted that relevant information on the number of leases granted entities to mine in the country’s reserves has been concealed from the public, by rendering the website inaccessible to the general public.

This act, they said, is questionable – especially as government is purportedly leading a fight against corruption.

Loopholes in L.I. 2462

At the forum, the coalition presented a legal opinion on the new regulation, pointing out the challenges associated with it.  It said the passage of L.I. 2462 is a clear breach of the Environmental Protection Agency and relevant ministries and agencies.

“We have in this country established the fact that there are a lot of inconsistencies within the law.  There are a lot of laws meant to protect forest reserves; and as a mandate of the Forestry Commissio, we don’t even need a new law for the protection of forest reserves – but the law is crafted in such a way that it is deceptive.”

Furthermore, they concluded that it contradicts the laid down constitutional framework for managing the country’s natural resources.

Similarly, they said L.I. 2462 does not carry the legislative legitimacy to override or erode the protections conferred on land classified as forest reserves. For instance, they explained that the law does not seem to protect forest reserves as sanctions associated with culprits are too weak.

They observed that the L.I. deviates from the gender inclusion custom. Again, they argued that there has been an alleged lack of wholesome stakeholder consultation.

“What is clear from our analysis of the law and how it aligns with our documentation and our policy process, is the fact that the law does not in any way align with any policy we have in this country. It is in contravention of the forests and nature policy of our Ghana forest master plan, and also of our commitment to the CBD which is an international agreement and also to the global biodiversity framework agreement,” stated Daryl Bosu, Deputy National Director-A Rocha Ghana, a leading member of the coalition.

Way forward

The group plans to release an official statement that will highlight their worries and lay out the essential actions needed to safeguard the nation’s precious natural resources. They aim to join forces in their endeavours to protect these resources.

Above all, the coalition holds the belief the L.I. is retrogressive and must be repealed immediately in order to save the country’s forests from severe destruction, while a ban should be placed on all mining activities in significant biodiversity areas.

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