Opinions Tue, 27 Aug 2013

Halt illegal mining in Thompson Bomu at Akyem Abuakwa Juaso

By Kofi Thompson

On Saturday 16th of August, 2013, I took an internationally-acclaimed Burkinabe architect with an architectural practice in the German capital of Berlin, Mr. Francis Kere, to see part of the P. E. Thompson Estate's freehold 14-square mile upland evergreen rainforest in the Atewa Range.

88 acres of what is one of the most beautiful places on the surface of the planet Earth - and part of an area designated a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area - has been set aside for a community-based eco-tourism project.

The planned eco-tourism-as-a-conservation-tool project, is a partnership between the Chiefs and people of Akyem Juaso, the P. E. Thompson Estate and Greenheart Conservation of Canada.

When completed, the community-based eco-tourism destination will have a forest canopy walkway; ziplines; tree-house and ground-level eco-lodges; a visitor-centre and hiking trails as centrepiece attractions.

It is meant to be an example to other large private landowners in the area, as a viable alternative to gold mining.

We were shocked to see the destruction going on in the area. The question is: Who owns the three 32-tonne excavators working in the area, and the gold mining accoutrements scattered in that section of the upland evergreen rainforest - and who gave the gold miners permission to enter the area?

I am appealing to the inter-ministerial anti-gallamsey task-force to act swiftly to arrest all those involved in the illegal activities going on at Thompson Bomu, in the P. E. Thompson Estate's property, at the Akyem Abuakwa Juaso section, of the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest.

The P. E. Thompson Estate, which is dedicated to the conservation of its entire landholding in the Eastern Region, has not authorised any mining activity on its property near the Akyem Abuakwa cocoa-farming fringe-forest village of Juaso, near Saamang.

At a time of global warming, it is important that the inter-ministerial task force on gallamsey activities, clearly understands how delicate the nature of the area's ecology is.

They must also not forget that the area performs vital eco-system services for most of southern urban Ghana - a part of Ghana with a large population that depends on the three major river systems (the Densu, Birim and Ayensu rivers) that take their headwaters from the area, for its treated drinking-water supply.

The authorities must also note that 99.6 acres of the P. E. Thompson Estate's landholding in the area - to which it has officially sanctioned access as an admitted farm, and intends utilising as a community-based carbon sequestration project - lies inside the official government-owned Atewa Forest Reserve.

So, from a practical on-the-ground standpoint, we actually understand the gravity of the situation at hand that that ecological tragedy and crime against humanity going on in Thompson Bomu, represents.

Perhaps the time has now come for the Okyehene to consider asking the government to hand over the Atewa Forest Reserve to the Chiefs and people of Akyem Abuakwa.

Working through the Akyem Abuakwa State Council, the Atewa Forest Reserve could be effectively managed in a collaboration between the Akyem Abuakwa State Council and the Forestry Commission - with a view to partnering environmental NGO's and other conservation organisations that could help implement the recommendations contained in the Conservation International RAP Bulletin No. 47.

If the Dutch government is willing to fund an eco-tourism project to turn the Atewa Forest Reserve into a national park - on condition that the government of Ghana bans all mining and logging in the forest reserve and the surrounding slopes, why should it not be overseen by the Chiefs and people of Akyem Abuakwa, with expertise and guidance from the Forestry Commission and conservation NGO's, on behalf of the whole country?

Finally, the P. E. Thompson Estate appeals to the inter-ministerial task force on gallamsey - which was set up by the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, the Hon. Innusah Fuseini, to prevent and end just such egregious examples of the ruthless plundering of the remainder of our nation's natural heritage by a selfish and greedy few - to act immediately and arrest all those (including Thompson family members and their assigns: as any such individuals have absolutely no legal rights whatsoever to do so) involved in the illegal gold mining and illegal logging going on at Thompson Bomu and its environs.

Columnist: Kofi Thompson