Perspectives on Small-scale Mining in the Birim North District of Ghana

James Fearon, Noah Agbah, Evans Dawutey


Small-scale mining operations in the study area are illegal (galamsey). Using the Conceptual mapping approach, we explored the effects of the illegal activity on the environment and livelihoods in two farming communities in the Birim North District. Majority (89%) of the galamsey operators (n=180) are migrants from five regions, besides the Eastern. Indigenes from the Volta Region constituted the bulk (53%), followed by Ashanti region with 17%. Participants aged between 16 and 39 years formed 74% of the miners with women making up 10%. They migrated in search for job opportunities that were limited or non-existent in their respective regions of origin. Three types of galamsey operations identified were underground, underwater, and surface mining. The activities have degraded vast farmlands through indiscriminate excavation and exposure of topsoil to agents of erosion. With 8% of drinking water sources in the district declared as unsafe, contamination of water bodies that serve communities along their course gives great course for worry. Abandoned mines serve as death traps and breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Labour supply for agriculture becomes relatively scarce due to competing interests with mining. The evidence suggests that only 11% of the mineworkers who double as food crop farmers visit their farms daily while an overwhelming majority (89%) work at the mines daily. Despite the negative consequences, galamsey is relatively rewarding for those involved in it and favourable to the local economy. At the current GH¢:US$ rate of 3.8:1, mine operators earn an average of $7,280-$9,620 (good scenario) and $1,456-$1,950 (bad scenario) annually, compared to the seasonal (annual) earnings of $787.5 from agriculture.

Keywords: Galamsey, mining, small-scale, environment, pollution, livelihoods, sustainable.

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3216 ISSN (Online)2225-0948

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