Changing the Paradigm of Illegal Galamsey in Ghana

Small-scale mining activities in Ghana date back more than 2000 years, with evidence of gold mining as far back as the seventh and eighth centuries. It also accounts for the colonial name of the country “The Gold Coast”. Ghana is presently the second largest producer of gold in sub- Saharan Africa, only behind South Africa. However, this enviable position is bolstered by the returns from small-scale mining or galamsey. It is estimated that about 30% of Ghana’s total gold output is derived from the activities of an estimated one million small-scale miners, with most of them galamsey operators without any mining permits.

In Ghana, small-scale miners need a license before they can operate. However, majority of small-scale miners are operating in Ghana without any legal license. The activity, which has kept on attracting several thousands of local Ghanaians, particularly the youth, promises a quicker means of earning an income. However, in recent years and particularly in the last few months, the discourse of illegal small-scale miners in Ghana can be portrayed generally as highly negative and combative, focusing on the galamsey operators as lawless, irresponsibly destroying the environment and a security risk to the country.

The overall objective of GGA-WA’s research was to collect information on the socio-economic impact of galamsey operations, the current regulatory frameworks and the operations of small-scale miners in Ghana and processes and ideas needed to formalize the operations of galamsey in Ghana. Information for this research was collected through a combination of literature reviews and primary data collection utilizing a range of qualitative methods. Fieldwork for the research project was undertaken in three districts (Amansiie West, Atwima Mponua and Denkyembour Districts) of Ghana with records of small-scale mining. This process included informal interviews with miners, mining officials, government officials, and local community members.

Ghana has since 1985 formulated and implemented several laws and policies aimed at creating an effective regulatory framework for the mining industry. Up until this time, mining in the gold sector was not regulated, though diamond mining activities had been regulated through the Minerals Act since 1962. The primary laws were:

•The Additional Profile Tax Law (PNDCL 122; 1985);

•The Minerals and Mining Law (PNDCL 153; 1986);

•The Minerals (Royalties) Regulations (LI 1349; 1985,1987);

•The Small-Scale Mining Law (PNDCL 218; 1989) amended in 2006; and

•The Precious Marketing Corporation Law (PNDCL 219; 1989).

In addition, the Minerals Commission in 1986 as the primary institution to oversee domestic and international operations in the Ghanaian mining sector. Thus, in effect, small-scale mining had a regulatory framework from 1989. However, it is estimated that over 70% of those engaged in this enterprise are unregulated without permits and operate outside the framework set by the minerals laws. Small-scale miners’ inability to register has been attributed to the long delays associated with the licensing regime. On the other side, operating outside the law implies that they are not meeting the minimum standards for legally mining in Ghana and this has pitched them against the State in recent years.