Ghana: All Our Forests Sit on Gold


"Every forest reserve in the country sits on a mineral resource."

It appears Ghana has some tough decisions to make regarding whether it should allow mining in the country's forest reserves. This is because, as Mr. Oppon Sasu of the Forestry Commission explained, "Every forest reserve in the country is sitting on one mineral resource or the other."

Some forest reserves are also protecting water sheds. The Atiwa range, for example, contains very important rivers, including Densu which is the source of water for the Weija Dam that serves most homes in Accra.

To pursue mining and at the same time preserve its forest reserves, Ghana would have to steer clear of surface mining, which is becoming the order of the day in the mining industry across the globe. Because underground mining is capital-intensive, a lot of companies generally opt for surface mining which is relatively cheaper and safer for workers.

However, surface or open-pit mining results in the removal of forest cover and a dislocation of the ecological balance of whole areas. "If we want to go into surface mining, it will cause a lot of degradation," says Mr. Sasu.

Mr. Oppon Sasu said his outfit is not against mining per se, but that the method of mining employed in the country must be such that the country does not end up losing its ecology.

Surface mining is already taking place in Ghana. A lot of farming communities in the Tarkwa, Obuasi and Ahafo areas have already lost large tracts of farmlands to mining companies engaged in surface mining.

Ghana's total forest cover, in the last fifty years, is said to have fallen from 8.2 million hectares to 1.6 million last year. The annual deforestation rate has been averaging 65,000 hectares per year, a trend that is alarming enough to prompt policies that safeguard our forests.

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