Effects of artisanal and small scale mining on the environment and livelihoods in Ghana: a case study of selected mining communities in the Upper East Region

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Around the developing world especially, Artisanal and Small Scale Mining, has done tremendous damage to water bodies and to the wider environment which has led to many calls for a clamp down on the sector. However, the sector has a striking cord with poverty and deprivation. From Asia to Africa and to South America, ASM is a poverty driven industry. The UN’s efforts at addressing the issues have been quite microscopic basing on issues such as technicalities, environmental and quite recently alternative livelihood concerns whiles ignoring the very wide and deep socio-economic issues encompassing the ASM sector. Thus, this study focused on analyzing the environmental, livelihood and other socio-economic issues of ASM as they affect the people of the Upper East Region. The discussion therefore, brings to the fore, the micro ASM and community development issues. Using a case study approach, the Talensi Nabdam mining belt which has the highest concentration of ASM activities was chosen. Data was obtained at the District and at the regional capital town – Bolgatanga. Interviews were administered to 138 miners, 8 institutions and other stakeholders. To have qualitative enquiry on the issues, community forum involving 324 people were organized in the six mining communities of Gbani. Most of the study’s secondary data was sourced from issues in the news, journals and renowned publications for relevant information. The survey found out that, extreme poverty, long off farm activities, flooding, post harvest losses , low skill and high illiteracy levels are some of the causes of increased ASM activities. It was also revealed that ASM is worsening the environmental problems of the region, increasing malaria and HIV cases among others but employs over 10,000 people of the region, who see the gold mining as a timely recipe to eliminating poverty, hunger and deprivation and will do anything to continue mining. The people were found not to be ignorant and unappreciative of the negative aspects of ASM and are yearning for government support to minimize them. It is against this back drop, that the study recommends incisive policy emanating from consultations and inputs from stakeholders especially in mining communities to make them feel they owe the policies. as was done in China for the people of Shouzhou and Duyun small scale mining areas. Policies on environmental protection and other important mining rules subservient to the national mining laws can be strategically enshrined in the District’s Medium Term Plans and given the necessary support from Regional Coordinating Council and central government for effective implementation to minimize the negative effects of ASM and to strengthen capacities of the people against losses due to low technology and exploitation by middlemen. This could culminate into enhancing wealth creation and help alleviate the region’s extreme poverty level of 84%.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Development Policy And Planning, 2012