Determinants and Implications of Chinese Involvement in Informal Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining in Ghana: Perspectives from the Grassroots

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Kumah, Richard
Artisanal and Small-scale mining , Ghana , Informal , Chinese , Locals , Environment , Engagement
Despite the increasing relevance of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in poverty reduction in Ghana and in the nation’s mineral production, this mining branch also presents huge environmental and social challenges due to weak regulation. Over the last decade, the proliferation of Chinese gold seekers into Ghana’s ASM, which is reserved officially for Ghanaians, has been noted to contribute to worsening social and environmental destruction especially due to the increasing mechanization of this hitherto rudimentary mining branch. However, the perspectives of key local stakeholders on factors fuelling these Chinese-local informal ‘partnerships’ as well as the enduring impacts on the local mining scene have not been thoroughly explored. The study adopts a qualitative exploratory case study, including semi-structured interviews with key local stakeholders, and complemented by data from the extant literature and mining legislation. First, the findings show that illicit Chinese participation in ASM is underpinned by local grievances and concerns over broader systemic distributional inequities (real and perceived) in Ghana’s mineral policy regime on two related fronts: inequitable mineral wealth distribution and inequitable mining land regimes. Second, findings reveal marked shortcomings of the existing ASM governance framework which in turn drive illegal mining broadly, and also facilitate the infiltration of foreign miners. These include a narrowly conceived ASM formalization framework that disconnects from local level dynamics and practices, inadequate state support for local miners, a porous ASM market regime that enhances the flourishing of illicit gold markets, among others. The findings also show increasing environmental destruction linked to heavy mechanization of the sector as well as differentiated social and economic impacts to rural folks. A silver lining, however, is that some local miners now have access to simple, intuitive and low-cost mining techniques and technologies that have a potential to improve their efficiencies and also enhance environmental quality. Generally, the findings demonstrate the top-down nature of Ghana’s mineral governance and profound information asymmetries that exist between policy and practice. They underscore the need for a more collaborative natural resource governance that engages local stakeholders in ASM governance frameworks in Ghana.
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