Ghana’s casual mining harms well being and the land – however reforms should work with individuals, not in opposition to them

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Artisanal small-scale mining has been practised in Ghana for over a century. In 2018, small-scale miners generated 2.1 million ounces of gold, accounting for 43.1% of complete gold manufacturing within the nation. The sector employs 60% of Ghana’s mining workforce.

However this manufacturing has come at a value: water air pollution, land degradation, the destruction of agricultural fields, and the discharge of hazardous parts like mercury into soil and water.

Over time, Ghana’s authorities has tried to formalise artisanal mining operations. It has tried a whole ban on their operations, army interventions, dialogue, different livelihood programmes and neighborhood mining. However every intervention has introduced a corresponding change in technique by the miners. The online impact is that they haven’t labored.

As a analysis scientist, I’ve studied Ghana’s artisanal small-scale mining sector and the totally different methods the federal government has used. My research conclude that the best way ahead has two parts. The federal government wants to attract up insurance policies that scale back the environmental and human security dangers. On the similar time, it must make the most of the sector’s potential to scale back poverty in rural economies.

This may go some method to making the artisanal and small-scale mining sector perform for the betterment of mining communities, as large-scale mining companies do.

A brand new actuality

My analysis colleague and I performed a research in 12 mining communities in Ghana’s western Prestea-Huni Valley district. Farming, small-scale mining and small-scale buying and selling are the primary occupations of individuals residing within the space. We collected knowledge between 2015 and 2022. We interviewed casual miners at their pits and picked up secondary knowledge from literature on the results of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. We additionally examined legal guidelines, army interventions and data on abuses and brutalities as reported by on-line information websites.

Our key findings included:

  • The comparatively casual nature of small-scale mining makes it troublesome for the federal government to control it by way of present legal guidelines and insurance policies.

  • Solely 11 of the greater than 30 evaluated legal guidelines, guidelines and insurance policies which were in place because the Nineteen Eighties to control Ghana’s mining trade are particularly centered on guaranteeing the success of the casual artisanal gold mining trade.

  • For the reason that Nineteen Eighties, Ghana has used a mix of safety companies to pursue casual or unregistered miners.

  • Navy interventions in opposition to artisanal miners resulted in 1,502 arrests, representing 11% of three,574 complete abuses reported between 2006 and 2022.

  • Essentially the most generally reported abuses and casualties concerned the seizure, confiscation and destruction of excavators by safety companies.

  • The army interventions led to the deportation and arrest of overseas nationals, together with Chinese language, Burkinabes and Guineans.

  • The variety of artisanal small-scale miners continues to extend.

The best way ahead

We conclude from our findings that command-and-control methods don’t work. It is because they don’t contain successfully consulting and involving affected communities. They’re short-lived and unplanned. They don’t deal with the underlying causes of the issues related to casual mining.

The artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector in Ghana is difficult. To deal with the challenges related to the sector, a complete technique incorporating the miners and native communities is required. Insurance policies and actions that deal with the underlying causes (the explanations individuals interact within the behaviour within the first place) can be simpler.

The underlying causes of the issue could possibly be financial, comparable to poverty and unemployment in mining communities. They could possibly be social, comparable to marginalisation of individuals in mining communities and the appropriate of the individuals to hunt justice by digging for survival. Institutional causes embrace prolonged waits, onerous necessities and bureaucracies for miners to acquire new licences. The causes may be technological, comparable to using heavy gear, or political (involvement of political figures and “large males”).

We argue that prohibiting and criminalising casual mining gained’t work.

New methods should minimise the detrimental results of mining whereas maximising the helpful ones. These ought to embrace:

  • Thorough environmental impression assessments for any endeavor or initiative which may hurt the setting or the social standing of communities the place mining tasks happen.

  • Self-regulation when it’s troublesome for public coverage to handle a state of affairs. For instance, small-scale miners’ associations might police their very own operations.

  • The training and coaching of communities on sustainable mining strategies to make sure that their operations are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. This might embrace offering incentives, enhancing entry to sources, and informing artisanal miners concerning the norms that govern their operations.

  • Native authorities programmes to coach the general public on the elemental want for sustainable and accountable mining strategies.


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