Ghana is currently the largest exporter of gold in Africa. It is home to 23 large-scale mining companies that produce gold as well as diamonds, bauxite and manganese, and over 300 registered small-scale mining groups.
Yet Ghana suffers from many of the challenges typically faced by countries rich in natural resources. Its artisanal mining sector is characterised by inefficient and dangerous
production methods, lack of capacity-building investment, and bribery and corruption.
In recent years, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – a traditional part of society in Ghana since gold was discovered – has become an issue of heightened national interest due to its negative impacts on society and the environment.
A boom in gold that lead to devastation for local communities
In 2007, gold prices boomed and tens of thousands of Chinese migrants flocked to Ghana, bringing heavy mining machinery and equipment, to claim their stake in the fortune.
Today, it’s estimated that around 50,000 Chinese migrants live in Ghana, and most of them participate in the ASM sector. Along with elevating rates of gun violence, drug trafficking and corruption across Ghana, the impact on ASM communities has been devastating – environmentally, economically and socially.
The significant damage inflicted by migrant miners
The small scale of local Ghanaian mining operations and their reliance on hand tools has historically prevented ASM from undermining the environment and the formal economy. This all changed with the arrival of Chinese miners, who were – and still are – able to easily purchase large-scale mining equipment and offer bribes for mining licenses.
A government response that penalised Ghanaian miners
The current government has attempted to address the problem of illegal mining by Chinese migrants on many occasions. In 2017, President Nana Akufo-Addo voiced concerns about Chinese miners illegally exporting gold to the UAE, noting a $5 billion discrepancy between trade statistics and actual gold exports. The same year the government officially banned ASM, labelling the activity as ‘galamsey’, a word which is derived from the phrase ‘gather them and sell’ meaning illegal mining.
While the government’s ban on ASM is a response to a real and serious problem, it has had a devastating impact on the Ghanaian communities that have relied on ASM to support their livelihoods for generations.
Now, not only do they have to go through a licensing process that is completely foreign to them, they also have to compete against wealthy, unscrupulous and illegal miners.
A practical development solution that aims to redress the balance
Development Gold Ghana is in an attempt to help ASM communities continue mining in a safe, economically viable and legal way.
Partnering with Ghana’s University of Mines and Technology and the Impact Facility, Development Gold Ghana seeks, by 2024, to:
- Certify 125 artisanal mining operations with Ghana National Association of Small-Scale Miners
- Restore 3125 acres of retired mine sites
In the future, Development Gold Ghana aims to:
- Provide capital finance to ensure that mines have the equipment they need to operate efficiently
- Facilitate geological assessments to help mines capture greater value from their resources
- Eliminate mercury from the production process through the adoption of alternative technologies
- Ensure that the gold produced from these mines can be sold internationally by aligning mining practices with environmental and ethical standards
- Invest in land remediation and food production to ultimately create diverse and resilient local economies by decreasing the dependence on mining revenues