Government proposal to mine bauxite at Atewa forest worse off
During the mid-year budget review, the Finance Minister stated that the infrastructure deficit, which is in the region of US$30 billion, should be adequately tackled with the agreement that will see government leverage the country's bauxite deposits. Following this intention, parliament passed into law the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminum Industry Act, 2018, which would be the legal framework to take the opportunity of the vast bauxite resource available to help in economic development of the country.
One of such action to close the infrastructure deficit is the Sinohydro bauxite - infrastructure barter between Ghana and China worth US$ 2 billion to mine bauxite at Nyinahin. This is as part of an earlier memorandum between Ghana and China where Ghana is only going to leverage 5% of our country’s bauxite resources to the Chinese who are giving us $15 billion over a period.
The Vice-President of Ghana, on his visit to China, to sign the memorandum of agreement of which China will provide funding to the infrastructure project to exploit our bauxite reserve, stated the total bauxite they want to leverage is the 960 million metric tonnes. So the question is: How much is the 5% of the 960 million metric tonnes worth?
Scenario 1 – 960 Million Tonnes is the Total Reserves for Ghana Then 5% will be 48% million tonnes of bauxite. Which will give you an aluminum value (1/5 of the projected bauxite value) that will mean 9.6 million metric tonnes. Export value for minimum of $15000 per tonne - US$14.4 billion. Export value for maximum of $2182.59 per tonne - US$ 21 billion.
Scenario 2 – The 5% of the 960 million metric tonnes (This we can get more from Nyinahin concession alone)
There is an estimated 192 million tonnes of aluminum at Nyinahin.
Export value for a minimum of $1500 a tonne - $ 288 billion.
Export value for a maximum of $2182.59 a tonne - $419 billion.
If Nyinahin alone is giving us the 192 million tonnes of aluminium which will generate close to $400 billion in export value of aluminium, why is government bent on destroying the Atewa Forest which (1) has low grade bauxite and (2) the forest is the source of water for over 5 million Ghanaians? It is important to note that the export value of aluminium from Atewa is only $79 Billion as compared to the $400 billion from Nyinahin.
The bauxite in Atewa, according to research, can only be mined for 30 years, meanwhile, the bauxite mining at Nyinahin is over 150 to 300 years. Every country has the right to exploit its resources for development; and as such, Ghana too has the opportunity because we have a lot of reserves.
However, we are not in agreement that one goes and mine every place just because there is bauxite. You do not put all your eggs in one basket.
The estimated impact of the bauxite in Nyinahin, Awaso, and Tabi Offin will not be as significantly damaging as mining in a watershed Atewa that provides water for 5 million Ghanaians. Bauxite mining is one destructive extractive industry in the world. The upland ecosystem will first be cleared of all vegetation and rock rocks exploded into bits.
The streams and rivers will either cease to flow or get contaminated with heavy metals.
We are on a pathway to sustainable development and this requires prudent and judicious use of resources without jeopardizing the ability of the populace to meet daily critical needs like water, health and well-being.