Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in Ghana

From Oil4All
Jump to: navigation, search

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is a form of subsistence mining, which provides a direct or indirect livelihood for over 100 million people in the developing world[1]. It often takes place alongside large scale operations, outside the formal system of regulation.

The ASM sector is strong in Ghana, and its importance is steadily growing.[2] In 2000 it only contributed to 9 percent of gold production – by 2010 that figure had grown to 23 percent.[3] Indeed, in 2010 the ASM sector produced $800 million worth of a gold and $11.3 million worth of diamonds.[3] As of 2009 over 1 million people were directly dependent upon ASM for their livelihoods in Ghana.[4]

The presence of ASM is sometimes associated with challenges facing mining communities, such as environmental damage, safety concerns, the spread of communicable disease, security risks, child and forced labour, and illegal trade in minerals.[5].

Regulation of ASM

The mining of gold within the ASM sector in Ghana is regulated by the Small-scale Gold Mining Act. The act was passed in 1989 – prior to this ASM was regarded as illegal and therefore minerals were often smuggled out via neighbouring countries. The Mining Commission estimates that in 1985 around $15 million worth of minerals were smuggled out of Ghana.[3] Following the introduction of legislation in 1989, further regulations were laid out by the Minerals and Mining Act 2006 for small-scale mines wishing to obtain an official license to mine. Regulations included a minimum age of 18 for miners and a maximum mine size of ten hectares (ha).[3]

However, less than a quarter of the ASM sector operates within these formal regulations. The majority, popularly known as ‘galamsey’, continue to operate outside the law. Sometimes these informal mines intrude on concessions of large-scale formal mines, giving rise to tension between the two parties.[6]

ASM and LSM co-existence

A recent International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) report suggests that the relationship between ASM and large scale mining (LSM) operations is a major issue currently facing governments, communities and companies: “For mining to have maximum positive impact, to preserve social harmony and to ensure minimization of environmental damage small scale mining needs to be legal, regularized and managed”.[6]

According to the report, the relationship between ASM and LSM in Ghana has become increasingly strained in recent years, often culminating in violent conflict. Confrontations occur between on ASM miners on the one hand and LSM owners and state security forces on the other.[6] Efforts to accommodate ASM and promote miners livelihoods by LSM companies, such as Gold Fields Ltd, have been criticised for lack of engagement with key stakeholders, lack of technical support and lack of financially viable alternative livelihoods.[7]


  1. "ASM Workers" Community and Small Scale Mining Initiative, retrieved 9 February 2012.
  2. Jonosson, JB and Fold, N 2011 "Mining From Below: Taking African Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Seriously" Geography Compass Vol. 5 (7) pp 479-493.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "An Overview of Ghana's ASM Sector" Ghana Mineral's Commission, retrieved 9 February 2012.
  4. Hilson, G 2009 "Challenges with Eradicating Child labour in the Artisanal Mining Sector: A case study of the Talensi-Nabdam District , Upper East Region of Ghana" Paper delivered to the Rethinking Extractive Industries Conference, York University, Toronto, March 2009.
  5. "Artisanal and Small-scale Mining" International Council on Mining and Metals, retrieved 9 February 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "ICMM workshop on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) and Mining Companies 12 – 14 May 2009" International Council on Mining and Metals, retrieved 10 February 2012.
  7. Aubynn, A 2009 "Sustainable solution or a marriage of inconvenience? The coexistence of large-scale mining and artisanal and small-scale mining on the Abosso Goldfields concession in Western Ghana" Resource Policy Vol. 34 (1) pp 64-70.