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How poverty spurs illegal gold mining in Ghana

SciDev recently released a video report investigating illegal mining in Ghana and the “galamsey” gold rush.

Galamseys are unregulated small-scale miners who dig for gold illegally in Ghana, many of whom were former farmers forced to mine due to poverty and loss of farmable land, often due to the mining industry itself. Surface mining for gold has caused significant deforestation, destruction of farmland, and a loss of livelihood for the affected farmers.

The video delves into what motivates galamseys to take part in the mining and its impact on the environment and health.

Gold mining has existed in Ghana for over 3500 years. The country formerly known as the Gold Coast is now the second largest gold producer in Africa, after an increase in gold prices in 2008 resulted in a modern gold rush. Small-scale mining makes up over 30 percent of gold production in the country.

Galamseys rely on daily revenue from small-scale mining  to provide food and shelter for their families.

While it can help provide an income, unregulated mining is highly controversial for its environmental impact, danger and negative health consequences.

Because there are no enforced guidelines or safety protocols, they lack the equipment to protect themselves from exposure to high levels of mercury and other elements used to process gold. These chemicals also pollute the rivers from which miners eat fish. River pollution also leads to a lack of safe drinking water.

In addition to environmental hazards, unregulated miners are also prone to more fatal accidents.

Poverty drives illegal mining throughout the world. While small-scale mining can contribute to local economic development, it’s important for people to find ways to work that do not jeopardize their health or the health of their environment.

Check out more videos in this series on “Ghana’s gold diggers” at SciDev.Net’s Youtube page.