Small-scale miners in Ghana must change their practices in order to ensure their survival, being pushed out by Anglogold Ashanti.
Small-scale miners must change their practices in order to ensure their survival
AngloGold Ashanti has its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa and was created in 2004 following the merger of AngloGold and the Ashanti Goldfields corporation. AngloGold’s majority owner is the Anglo American group and is based in South Africa, and Ashanti Goldfields Corporation is based in Ghana.
AngloGold Ashanti is currently the third largest producer of gold in the world and functions in 9 different countries and has a total of 17 mines. It is also running some explorative missions in a number of new gold producing countries around the world.
Mining in Ghana
37% of Ghana’s exports are minerals and over 90% of this is from gold, as a result it therefore continues to be a priority for the country and accountable for approximately 5% of the country’s GDP.
Whilst there are approximately 23 large mining companies in Ghana the majority of mines are still small operations with over 300 registered small scale companies as well as a significant number of illegal mining operations.
Illegal mining is a major concern for the government as it is leaving large areas of the country desolate and degraded with abandoned holes and trenches becoming hidden death traps.
Illegal miners are also responsible for significant levels of pollution due to their poor operating practices as well as the type and amount of dangerous liquids they use to wash the soil.
Small scale mining
The amount of small-scale mining in Ghana continues to grow as it allows even the most impoverished people to secure an income and in turn a future for themselves. This has however resulted in a number of these small-scale operations operating without the correct permits.
Small scale mining is an important contributor to both livelihoods and economic growth however their poorly managed environmental and safety controls are putting pressure on the government to take action and further formalize and restrict the industry.
The Precious Minerals Marketing Corporation (PMMC) was set up as part of the 1989 regulations detailed in the Small-Scale Gold Mining Law and works to promote the development of small-scale mining in Ghana.
Obuasi Mine Concession
The Obuasi Gold Mine is part of the Obuasi mine concession and is the 9th largest gold mine on the earth. The Obuasi Mine is jointly owned by AngloGold Ashanti and thanks to their recent voluntary relinquishment of 60% of the mine, the government of Ghana. A spokesman for AngloGold Ashanti said, “This will provide an opportunity for the Government/Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to use the land as it sees fit, including to encourage a range of socio-economic development activities in the Obuasi region,”.
The site is however currently being put a risk by illegal small-scale miners invading the land and damaging not only the environment but also the infrastructure itself. A representative for AngloGold Ashanti said that the viability of the mine as a whole was being put at risk by the illegal miners and as such it was crucial that authorities take action to peacefully resolve the problem as a top priority.
Creation of Co-operatives
Since the recent voluntary relinquishment of 60% of the Obuasi mine concession, attempts are being made by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Minerals Commission to find a way of regulating these small-scale miners by encouraging the creation of co-operatives, in turn ensuring that AngloGold Ashanti and the small-scale miners are able to work together both successfully and peacefully. When recently asked about the newly relinquished land he stated, “This means that the land which was not previously used could now be brought into productive use. Out of this land we will cede some to small scale farmers and in fact we have begun demarcating the land to the miners. So if the complaint in the past was that there was no land to mine on, then now we have the land and we are working with the district assemblies and all other stakeholders to work.”