Gold in Ghana: The effects of changes in large-scale mining on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)

2018-11-02T09:07:02Z (GMT) by Paul W.K. Yankson Katherine Gough
© 2018 Two scales of gold mining operations, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and large-scale mining, have operated side by side in Ghana for decades. In the past, the two co-existed on the same mineralised land without much contact or conflict, as large-scale mining occurred underground and ASM operated mainly on the surface. With the former's transition from an underground labour-intensive mining operation to capital-intensive surface activity, however, opportunities for wage employment have reduced leading to labour retrenchment. Using an informalisation theoretical framework, and drawing on fieldwork conducted in the three gold mining towns of Obuasi, Prestea and Kenyasi, this paper explores how the interface between large-scale mining and ASM has evolved. It is shown how the loss of wage employment opportunities in large-scale mining has contributed to the proliferation of illegal ASM operations. As large-scale surface mining operations have reduced access to mineralised land by ASM, the latter have encroached on to the concessions of the former resulting in conflicts between these parties. It is ASM rather than large-scale mining, however, that is sustaining local economies in Ghana. As the economic well-being of mining towns is linked largely to the fortune of their mining economies, it is imperative that an innovative approach is adopted by the state in addressing the need for ASMs to access mineralised land.