Migration, housing and attachment in urban gold mining settlements

Mining settlements are typically portrayed as either consisting of purpose-built housing constructed by mining companies to house their workers, or as temporary makeshift shelters built by miners working informally and inhabited by male migrants who live dangerously and develop little attachment to these places. This paper contributes to these debates on the social and material dynamics occurring in mining settlements, focussing on those with urban rather than rural characteristics, by highlighting how misconceived these archetypal portrayals are in the Ghanaian context. Drawing on qualitative data collected in three mining settlements, we explore who is moving to and living in the mining towns, who is building houses, and how attachments to place develop socio-temporally. Through doing so, the paper provides original insights on the heterogenous nature of mining settlements, which are found to be home to a wide range of people engaged in diverse activities. Mining settlements and their attendant social dynamics are shown to evolve in differing ways, depending on the type of mining taking place and the length of time the mines have been in operation. Significantly, we illustrate how contrary to popular understandings of incomers to mining settlements as nomadic opportunists, migrants often aspire to build their own houses and establish a family, which promotes their attachment to these settlements and their desire to remain. These insights further scholarship on the social and material configuration of mining settlements and feed into the revival of interest in small and intermediate urban settlements.