Small Scale Gold Mining and Environmental Degradation, in Ghana: Issues of Mining Policy Implementation and Challenges

Author(s): Kwaku Dwumor Kessey, Benedict Arko

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Abstract: Small scale gold mining in Ghana has a long history. It has existed as far back as the eighth century as a household economic activity. It was legalised recently when the Small Scale Mining Law (PNDCL 218) 1989 was passed and public policies were formulated to support the implementation of the law. From then, the industry has become a major contributor to total quantity of gold produced in Ghana. The industry is a major employer of rural labour force. Despite these contributions, the industry has several negative effects on environment. This study was conducted in the Denkyira area which is located in the northern part of the Central region of Ghana, where there is heavy presence of small scale miners. The Offin river, the main source of water for household chores and other activities, which flows through the area is heavily polluted through the activities of small scale gold miners. Some mining sites have also turned into "˜deserts' as the vegetation cover in those areas has been removed. Since small scale gold miners do not have resources to properly manage the environment they have ignored that activity. On the other hand, public environmental regulatory bodies have also failed to carry out their statutory functions due to inadequate resources and poor institutional collaboration, among them. The implication of the action of the small scale gold miners' with respect to poor management of the environment, calls for education for the miners to build collective resource capacity for environmental management. Although, Ghana has several environmental protection laws and policies their implementation, has not been able to address the environmental challenges. Therefore the institution of appropriate strategies to control activities of the miners, especially the illegal small scale gold miners (Galamsay) who are the worst offenders, cannot be overemphasized. Since the Public agencies charged with the responsibility of regulating small scale gold mining are ineffective, the need to search for alternative approaches is crucial. For example, sites where a licensed small scale miner has operated in the past, could be inspected officially, for purposes of environmental management accreditation, before his/her application for renewal of license is considered, that is, if the inspection report is positive, otherwise the application must be put on hold or rejected.