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Small-Scale Gold Mining in Ghana

Posted on 3 July 2019

On 20-21 June, Professor Henrice Altink hosted a workshop to discuss the preliminary findings of a project on small-scale gold mining in Ghana.

The project, which is funded by a GCRF pump-priming grant, involves the collaboration of environmental scientists, political scientists and linguists at the universities of York and Ghana.

The workshop focussed on the field work undertaken in the Atiwa district to assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of small-scale gold mining.

The focus groups, interviews and surveys undertaken and remote-sensing data of land use showed that the increase in small-scale gold mining, especially its illegal variant, since the early 2000s has drastically changed the land tenure system; polluted water bodies; led to an influx of (internal) migrants; and affected school attendance rates, amongst other factors.

The fieldwork also shed light on the impacts of the government ban on small-scale mining that was in place from March 2017 to December 2018, such as a reduction in teenage pregnancies as there were then fewer single miners and labourers present in the region.

Furthermore, since the ban there has been a shift from koli-koli, the practice of processing old ‘waste’ to extract the remaining gold, towards kwee-kwee, the use of metal detectors to find gold. Although less destructive for the environment, kwee-kwee is not risk-free. For instance, it can lead to the burning of grazing lands and children can easily fall into the 10 feet-deep holes that are increasingly common across the Atiwa landscape.

The team will write up its findings in several articles and working papers, one of which will set out the case for and against the shift towards metal detectors and another that will deal with the language used by miners and others associated with the gold mining industry, and they are also in the process of applying for further funding to scale up the research and expand the partnership between the universities of Ghana and York.

See Professor Henrice Altink's staff profile.