The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has reiterated that forest reserves remain no-mining zones as part of efforts to curb illegal mining, except in some exceptional situations.
To this end, he said, the government has ceased issuing reconnaissance, prospecting and/or exploration licences in forest reserves, unless under exceptional circumstances.
Additionally, river-bodies – most of which have their sources in forest reserves, he added – have also been declared as red zones for mining.
He meanwhile revealed that a total of six forest entry permits have been issued for mining in Forest Reserves. They include CIMAF Ghana Limited, granted in 2018 and expired in 2021 and is no longer in force; and Chirano Gold Mines Limited renewed in 2019 after the existing permit granted in 2004 expired in 2019.
The rest are Kingsperp Mining Ltd. – granted in 2020; Koantwi Mining Co. Ltd. – granted in 2020; Onex International Co. Ltd. – granted in 2020; and Trans-Atlantic Logistics Ltd. – granted in 2020.
Of the six permits, he said, only Chirano Gold Mines and Koantwi Mining are in mining operations, with the others still working on other permits and/or authorisations required to commence their operations.
The minister was speaking on the state of the country’s forest reserves in parliament, and maintained that the ecological integrity of Ghana’s forest reserves has largely been maintained – despite several threats which impact negatively on the all-important resources.
Apart from mining, some of these threats include bushfires, illegal mining and logging, agricultural expansion and settlement, among others, he said.
Furthermore, he noted that the Forestry Commission has put in place several measures to protect forest reserves from various drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. These include regular patrolling of the forest reserves, protection and maintenance of internal and external boundaries, awareness-creation and stakeholder sensitisation, and decommissioning and demobilisation of equipment used for improprieties, among others.
Also, the minister said tree-planting exercises are being carried out to restore portions of forest reserves that have been affected by these drivers of deforestation – through initiatives such as the Green Ghana Project, Youth in Afforestation/Reforestation Project and the Modified Taungya System.
He said government continues working toward curbing illegal mining in the country, with persons arrested in forest reserves currently standing trial.
These measures, together with several others being taken by government against illegal mining, according to Mr. Jinapor are yielding good results, with some improvement in the quality of rivers and other water-bodies.
Protection of public lands
Mr. Jinapor disclosed that the ministry is working in collaboration with the Lands Commission to undertake an inventory of public lands, including those that have been encroached upon, to ensure their maximum protection.
He asserted that Section 236 of the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036) enjoins the Lands Commission or any agency for whose benefit land has been acquired, to take the necessary steps to recover the land from encroachment. This includes using reasonable force to eject encroachers from the land and demolishing structures on such lands.
To this end, he said, the ministry has constituted a public lands protection team to support the Lands Commission and Ghana Police Service in their efforts toward the protection of public lands.