Author: Yaw Adu-Gyamfi
Small-scale mining is essentially an artisanal or small industrial form of raw material extraction. In Ghana, there are about 300 registered small-scale mining groups and they constitute a major source of employment especially for small-scale gold and diamond miners, and contribute some foreign exchange to Ghana’s economy. However, there are a lot more of such groups that are not registered, and cannot access any meaningful form of support to boost their business.
Apart from gold and diamonds, other small-scale activities serving for employment for a lot of people center on the extraction of salt, kaolin, silica, sand, brown clay, aggregates and crushed rocks, etc. However, most small-scale miners popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’ engage in gold mining.
|Miners in Ghana, West Africa|
There are several challenges faced by small-scale miners. These also pose a great danger to the environment. The activities of the miners pollute rivers and streams nearby that serve as a source of drinking water for communities downstream. The ‘crude’ technologies used also pose a danger to the miners themselves who constantly get hurt on the job due to poor occupational-safety standards.
Aside from the environmental and occupational hazards, these businesses are not registered; hence, they do not benefit from any form of training to improve their business practices. The non-registration of their businesses also means government loses the requisite taxes for development.
Small-scale mining is often poverty driven and located in rural areas. Miners are generally unskilled and earn little. Individuals may be involved in a number of different types of mining activity: Gold or diamond rush, this is characterized by unstable communities, which are often saddled with environmental degradation from crude methods used. In Ghana, the Birim and Densu Rivers in the Eastern Region are examples of rivers that serve as a source of drinking water for several communities but have been gravely affected by small-scale mining activities.