An Accra High Court has granted leave for plaintiffs in the Atewa Forest case to file additional witness statement.
The plaintiffs ,who are seeking to stop the Chinese Government with the consent of Ghana Government to prospect for Bauxite in the Atewa Forest Range, are Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape, A Rocha Ghana, Flower Ghana, Ghana Youth Environment Movement, Ecocare Ghana, Kasa Initiative Ghana, Awula Serwah, Oteng Adjei, Boakye Twumasi-Ankrah and Nana Asante.
The Plaintiffs throughout their lawyers will have to file the statement per the orders of the Court on or before March 10, 2022.
Mr Marcellinus Biah, Counsel for the Plaintiffs, holding brief for Martin Kplebu, said the Court obliged them the opportunity to file additional witness statement, but they omitted to file one other witness statement.
“We humbly pray the Court to file the final witness statement, which we have carefully scrutinised,” he added.
Madam Aisha Adams, Assistant State Attorney, who held brief for Dorothy Afriyie Ansah, Chief State Attorney, said they were not opposed to them filing additional witness statement.
She told the Court that the State had filed all the statements per the orders of the Court.
The Court presided over by Justice John Nyante Nyandu said the Court had the right to reduce witness statements, if it realized that there were repetitions in the statements.
He expressed the hope that the witnesses, whose statements were being filed had unique evidence.
The Plaintiffs in a writ stated that the Government had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the People’s Republic of China to develop a bauxite industry in Ghana with the Atewa Range Forest as one of the sources of bauxite.
The Plaintiffs held that government, acting through the Ghana Integrated Aluminum Development Cooperation (GIADEC), entered the forest in May 2019, to explore for bauxite by drilling deep holes causing damage to the forest which protects the watershed for three major rivers and several streams, serving water to more than five million Ghanaians.
The Plaintiffs alleged that they initiated the present action after several unsuccessful attempts to engage the Government on why it should not touch the forest, as it was classified as Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA) and a protected forest.
It is their case that Ghana did not need to exploit the Atewa Range Forest bauxite reserves because there are other far richer bauxite reserves, according to information available to government, which government has made publicly available.
The Plaintiffs contend that strip mining, the only way to mine Ghana’s bauxite could result in loss of forest cover, loss of biodiversity, loss of access to clean water, build-up of greenhouse gases, loss of climate amelioration services, loss of emission reduction services, loss of medicinal/economic valuable plants and change in tourism potential of the area.
The Plaintiffs said the Government was undertaking mining activities in the forest without mineral right and urged the Court to compel the Government to restore or pay the cost of damages that had been caused by recognisance, prospecting and clearing of roads in the Forest.
The Plaintiffs are therefore praying for a declaration that mining of bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest violates the right to life and dignity as enshrined under articles 13 and 15 of the 1992 Constitution.
Plaintiffs want the Court to declare that the state breached their “right to life and dignity by exploring and driving deep holes into the ground at 53 different points in the Atewa Range Forest which activities started in May 2019.”
They are also seeking a declaration that the state breached the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) by exploring and creating deep holes in the Forest.
The Plaintiffs want the Court to compel the Government and its agents to declare Atewa Range Forest as a protected zone and take the necessary steps to protect the forest, in accordance with its constitutional obligations as contained under Article 36(9) of the 1992 Constitution.
They also seek an order restraining the Government, its assigns and agents, servants, workmen, allotees and guarantees whatsoever and howsoever described from undertaking mining and its related activities in the Atewa Range Forest.
The Attorney-General in its response stated that the Government only intended to utilize 1.9 per cent of the Atewa Forest Range and not the entire range.
The State contended that the actual mining area would cover 14.05-kilometer square and therefore, prospecting for bauxite in the area would not be hazardous to the forest and any specie that lived within it.
According to the Attorney-General, the Plaintiffs were merely crying wolf, as many countries, such as Brazil and Australia had successfully conducted mining activities in forest reserves, like the Amazon Rain Forest and Jarrah Forest under well supervised sustainable mining practices.
The State said the Government in ensuring the protection of the environment and species had set up a standing committee which comprises various mining and environmental regulatory agencies and commissions to ensure optimum adherence to responsible and sustainable mining practices to protect the water bodies and species within the mining area.
The case was adjourned to March 31 for Case Management Conference.