‘Strong laws are needed’ to stop forest loss from mining
[ACCRA] Policymakers must develop and implement forest conservation laws and programs to halt the loss of tropical forests to industrial mining, environmental experts urge.
The call follows a study showing that industrial mining in four countries – Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana and Suriname – has contributed to 80% of the loss of tropical forests in 26 countries over the past 20 last years.
Scientists studied mining areas in 26 countries covering 11,500 square kilometers of land, including 7,000 square kilometers of rainforest, from 2000 to 2019. Using data from satellite imagery and geospatial datasets at global coverage, they were able to quantify the direct loss of forests.
“The results show that some countries in sub-Saharan Africa are among the tropical countries that have lost the largest forest areas due to the expansion of mining,” says Stefan Giljum, lead author of the study and associate professor. at the University of Economics and Business in Vienna, Austria. . “Ghana stands out above all, in particular, for gold mining.”
“Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa are among the tropical countries that have lost the largest forest areas due to the expansion of mining.”
Stefan Giljum, Vienna University of Economics and Business
According to the study, the expansion of mining activities into forest areas has accounted for about 47% (3,264 square kilometers) of the loss of tropical forests over the past 20 years, African countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe suffering direct losses. loss of forest due to industrial mining.
The study published in September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that policymakers and mining companies operating in tropical countries should also consider potential impacts beyond the mining process. In order to preserve tropical forests, the direct and indirect impacts on deforestation of mining projects must be fully considered, the study explains.
Giljum says the current debate on deforestation focuses primarily on agriculture and ranching while little is known about the impact of mining. Meanwhile, global demand for minerals is steadily increasing.
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa should make monitoring the environmental effects of mining a priority to avoid major future damage to forest areas, adds Giljum.
“Monitoring and reducing the environmental impacts of mining will be an increasingly important topic in the future, so policy makers should start developing strategies through regional planning legislation and forest conservation strategies to take into account the direct and indirect impacts of mining expansion,” says Giljum. .
Daryl Bosu, Deputy Country Director of A Rocha Ghana, an environmental non-governmental organization, says that while environmental impact assessment regulations need to be strictly implemented and complemented by environmental mitigation plans, policies aimed at to establish ‘no go zones’, backed by appropriate legal frameworks, are crucial. Indeed, mining areas also provide food, water and other ecosystem services, he explains.
“As environmental impact assessments become more of a formality because they are backed by big business and controlling governments, it has become even more essential to respect the human rights of resource-rich communities. through uncompromising respect for community consent and participation in processes,” Bosu adds.
Ghana is already reeling from the negative impacts of small-scale mining, popularly known as “galamsey”. Ghanaians accuse the government of failing to respond firmly to an allegation last month that a mining company owned by a regional leader of the ruling political party mined gold in a forest reserve.
The Ghanaian Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has released A declaration on (October 3) to prevent the company from exploiting the forest reserve.
“While Akonta Mining Ltd has a mining lease to undertake mining operations in parts of Samreboi, outside the forest reserve, the company has no mining rights to undertake mining operations in the Tano Nimiri forest reserve” , the statement said. “Steps are underway to enforce the ministerial directive of September 30, 2022 [to stop the firm from mining in the forest reserve].
This piece was produced by the UK Sub-Saharan Africa office of SciDev.Net.