- Anger rises as Shell pipeline pollutes river and farms in southeastern Nigeria.
- Activists are demanding that new mining legislation be scrapped as the Ghanaian government grants a permit to mine gold in a forest reserve.
- In Ghana, residents are also demonstrating against a community mining plan.
- Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin featuring short stories from the extractive industry in Africa.
Anger over latest oil spill as Shell pipeline contaminates river and farms in Nigeria
The Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) says an oil spill from Shell’s Trans Niger pipeline, which runs through numerous communities in southeastern Rivers state, has severely contaminated a river and extensive farmland. The pipeline transports as much as 180,000 barrels of crude oil through Ogoniland, one of the most polluted regions of the country.
NOSDRA said crude oil had spilled into the Okulu River on June 11. Shell said it was working with a joint investigation team of regulators, residents and civil society to identify the cause and impact of the spill.
Investigators have not yet provided an estimate of the size of the spill, but a local activist said it was the area’s worst in more than a decade.
“It lasted more than a week, erupting into the Okulu River — which borders other rivers and eventually flows into the Atlantic Ocean — affecting several communities and displacing more than 300 fishermen,” Fyneface Dumnamene, head of the nonprofit Youths and Environment Advocacy Center, which monitors spills in the region, told the Associated Press.
Dumnamene told Mongabay that there was a second spill on June 18, this time from a facility owned by the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Oil spills are a regular occurrence in the Niger Delta. Shell and other oil and gas companies have spilled 110,000 barrels of oil into the neighboring state of Bayelsa over the past 50 years, according to a report published in May. Decades of oil production have severely affected fishing and farming communities and degraded the delta’s rich biodiversity, including endangered species such as manatees (Trichechus senegalensis), chimpanzees (Pan cavemen ellioti) and the Niger Delta red colobus (Piliocolobus epieni).
NOSDRA director-general Idris Musa said the agency’s response to the Shell spill was delayed by protests from residents.
Dumnamene said locals were angry and wanted the company to pay for the damage caused. “I think they need to involve the community. It [the protest] is a normal thing that happens when there is an oil leak; people are angry.”
Getting oil companies to clean up or pay for environmental damage can be difficult and lawsuits can take years.
Activists are calling for the scrapping of new mining legislation in Ghana
Forest defenders want new legislation regulating mining in forest reserves to be scrapped, pointing to the granting of a permit in an intact forest in February. The country’s Environmental Protection Agency said new legislation passed in November was designed to fill gaps in existing laws. Activists say it has given the presidency new powers to approve mining, even in areas of global biodiversity.
“If the EPA tells us there’s a gap, then they have to tell us what that gap is,” Daryl Bosu told Mongabay. Bosu is the deputy director of A Rocha Ghana, one of five NGOs that published a petition against the new legislation earlier this month.
“The new LI [legal instrument] has taken the position that if the necessary documentation is secured and – with regard to protected areas – if the government gives the go-ahead, all forest reserves will be liable for mining contrary to the previous existing directive, which completely excluded protected forest reserves from all mining activities’, he said.
He told Mongabay that the provisions of the new law were being hidden from civil society until the EPA shared details at a workshop in Accra in March, but there is already evidence of the danger posed by the new legislation.
Boin Tano, a 129-square-kilometre (50-square-mile) forest reserve in Ghana’s Western Region, is a relatively intact forest home to yellow-billed turacos (Tauraco macrorhynchus), pied hornbills (Tockus fasciatus) and the vulnerable white-breasted guineafowl (Agelastes meleagrides), as well as the white thigh colobus (Colobus vellerosus) and western chimpanzees (Pt against). These last two species are critically endangered, but a mining contract for Boin Tano was awarded in February. Bosu said this would not have been possible under the previous law.
“Any serious government that is really committed to forest conservation and climate action will not make such a regression,” he told Mongabay. He said the government should scrap the new law immediately and consult with stakeholders to draft a better law.
Community marches in protest against special mining permits
AKOON and BOGOSO, Ghana — Residents of two towns in the western region of Ghana recently protested community mining projects in their area.
In 2021, the government of Ghana introduced the schemes in six locations across the country, aiming to curb illegal mining known as ‘galamsey’. The community mining program created a special license available only to Ghanaian nationals practicing small-scale mining, with the intention of improving the regulation of galamsey operations.
But residents of the Akoon and Bogoso communities say that instead of encouraging sustainable and responsible mining, the plan has become a death trap for locals. They say the damaging effects of mining have increased under the new ordinance, with rock blasting creating huge cracks in homes and other buildings, threatening them with collapse.
They also say Chinese nationals are involved in the community’s mining scheme, blaming them for the use of explosives, which local miners previously did not rely on.
“Community mining no longer helps us. The Chinese have taken over the community mining and they are exploding which makes our houses weak after developing cracks. We want the Chinese to stop mining,” said Kofi Apinko, a resident and small-scale miner.
Another resident, Joshua Nsaidoo, said mining activities threatened to cut the towns off from the rest of the region. “The Chinese have extended mining to the side of the road, making it difficult for us to use the road, especially during this rainy season. We had to make a detour to get to the city.”
Awudu Salami, Ini Ekott and Mabel Annang Adorkor contributed to this bulletin.
The Ghanaian government is facing resistance in an effort to mine biodiversity for bauxite
Banner image: White-thighed colobus (Colobus vellerosus) in Brong Ahafo, Ghana. Image by César María Aguilar Gómez via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC)
FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do so at the bottom of the page.