7.7 Bibiani's role in the debate on protected forests
Bibiani gold mine is located in western Ghana, 250 kilometres north-west of
Accra. The open-pit mine, which was commissioned in 1998, is in the
Sefwi-Bibiani belt, host to over 17 million ounces of gold, and the second-most
significant gold-bearing belt in Ghana after the Ashanti Belt to the east.
Owning some of the world's largest gold deposits, Ghana's gold mining industry
has more than doubled in the past decade. However, there are concerns that the
forests, beneath which lie the valuable gold deposits, are in danger of
disappearing. Opponents claim that much of Ghana's formerly forested areas has
been lost, and that existing forest reserves are progressively being converted
into other forms of land-use, in this case, surface mining. Mining is blamed not
only for deforestation, but also for altering entire physical ecosystems.
However, it is the view of AngloGold Ashanti that mineral development can
alleviate deforestation pressures and contribute to the reforestation of
An example of how this can be realistically achieved is AngloGold Ashanti's
Bibiani mine; this operation also begins to dispel the myth that mining
operations in developing countries operate to lower standards than their
counterparts in developed countries.
Bibiani mine is an ISO 14001 certified operation and has received significant
recognition for both its environmental and safety performance. In 2001, it was
cited by the Ghanaian Environmental Protection Agency as an Environmentally
Committed Company (Mining Sector).
Bibiani has a policy of progressive rehabilitation; this means that instead of
leaving its rehabilitation obligations till the end of operations, mined-out
areas and associated waste are reforested as they become available. Standard
methods of rehabilitation are used (including flattening of dump slopes, the
application of topsoil and tree-planting of these areas, the last of which is
carried out by local contractors and casual labour).
Bibiani also runs a nursery which produces a wide range of indigenous species
for its rehabilitation efforts. Some of these plants are donated for local
community purposes. The environmental monitoring programme includes measuring
the growth performance of a selected number of timber species on the revegetated
The mine's rehabilitation practices have been refined over time, to the extent
that the success of these rehabilitated mining areas have become the subject of
both significant national scientific and political interest. (See box below.)
The former Minister of Mines, Mrs Cecilia Bannerman, an entourage of senior
government and party representatives visited Bibiani to view the rehabilitation
results in May 2004. It is claimed that the success of these efforts played an
important role in the decision to grant permits to mine and explore in Protected
AngloGold Ashanti's view on designated protected areas.
As a member of the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), AngloGold Ashanti respects legally designated protected areas, and recognises that there are areas which should be regarded as 'no go' zones. It also seeks to engage with interested parties in questioning the sense of restricting mineral development in so-called 'protected areas' that have either been mismanaged, or stripped of their inherent conservation value. There should be ways of extracting economic value, while at the same time rehabilitating such areas to either their former state or some agreed alternative land-use.
Research at Bibiani
A team from the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) is carrying out research work on:
- the soil properties of the rehabilitated sites in comparison with that of the original forest site;
- the growth rate of the planted species; and
- the rate of recruitment of other plant species and animals into the site.