Already in 2012, "prominent conservation organisations in Ghana, in solidarity and under one identity called 'Coalition of NGOs against mining in Atewa' (CONAMA), made an urgent appeal to the government of Ghana to as a matter of national heritage and the long-term interest of the people of Ghana to rescind all plans and decisions to turn the Atewa Range of Forest Reserves into a mine. They subsequently called on government to abrogate whatever prospecting and mining contracts they have entered into with Vitmeco Ghana (Bauxite) Ltd, at whatever cost it takes." (3).
Atewa Forest has been included by the Government of Ghana in plans for an integrated bauxite industry because of deposits in the hill tops . Despite its critical nature, the forest is subject to the degrading effects of a range of human activities including substantial threats from artisanal mining and commercial bauxite exploitation, illegal logging, hunting and farm encroachment. Illegal logging peaked in the 1990s but has left a depleted forest with many commercial tree species now rare. Unlicensed small-scale gold mining is increasing and causing serious problems for forest edge communities arising from pollution of their water resources downstream of mining activity. Large-scale commercial mining also threatens the reserve since the hills hold significant bauxite deposits. In recent years international companies have explored the possibility of open cast mining inside the reserve.
In June 2017 the government signed a MOU with Chinese partners for mining of bauxite. One of the two named deposits in view is at Kyebi where bauxite has long been known to underlie the Atewa Forest. The forest is incredibly important both biologically and hydrologically and previous initiatives to extract the bauxite have always been halted by concerns about the impact on the environment. However, the current President and his closest advisers are from Kyebi itself where the forest is located so have a strong commitment to provide jobs and development for the region and they regard an integrated bauxite industry as their solution to this. The intention has been mentioned in two budget speeches since the new government came to power in early 2017. As reported by Reuters (5), “The money will come from the Chinese Development Bank, the implementation of the project will come from other agencies, infrastructure agencies in China, like China Railway”. The funds from Beijing would contribute toward building 1,400 km of a planned 4,000 km railway network, which would connect bauxite mines and production sites as well as establish a rail link into neighboring Burkina Faso. As reported by Bloomberg (4), on 28 June 2017 "Ghana signed an agreement with China that may culminate in the development of a $10 billion bauxite venture that will include the construction of alumina refineries and railway infrastructure. The two countries agreed to a MOU in which China will provide funding for the project to exploit the nation’s 960 million metric tons of bauxite deposits, Gideon Boako, an economic adviser for Ghanaian Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, said. “We have a lot of mineral resources, so we want to build the railways and refineries to get the bauxite out of the ground,” Boako said. “If we refine the bauxite, that alone is going to generate an export value of around $460 billion.” Bauxite is refined into alumina, which is then smelted to produce aluminum. Ghana produced 827,000 tons of bauxite and 40,000 tons of aluminum in 2013.
A document from A Rocha explains the risks from the project: "The Government of Ghana must declare Atewa Forest a National Park, to protect it from bauxite mining. Atewa Forest is the finest example of Upland Evergreen Forest in the Upper Guinean Forest region: its altitude causes a distinctive type of vegetation to grow that is extremely rare and very rich in species, including: Over 70 species classified as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable by the IUCN, such as the Togo Slippery Frog Conraua derooi; At least 50 species of mammals, including the recently discovered White-naped Mangabey Cercocebus lunulatus which is Critically Endangered; Over 1,000 species of plants and 230 species of birds, including the Nimba Flycatcher Melaenornis annamarulae found nowhere else in Ghana; Over 570 species of butterflies already recorded, out of potentially 700 species – which would make Atewa the richest forest for butterflies in West Africa. In our report to the Government of Ghana with support from IUCN Netherlands, we demonstrate the forest’s enormous importance to the water supply of five million people in Accra, and make a compelling economic case for protecting Atewa Forest as a National Park. But the Government is planning to let Chinese companies mine the bauxite deposits found in the hilltops of Atewa Forest – these are spread over a wide area, and would require the forest to be removed. The resulting barren landscape would be impossible to restore to its former condition. Atewa as a National Park would be a lasting, positive legacy for the Government of Ghana. " (1)