This article is one of three synthesis reports resulting from an integrated assessment (IA) of artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in Ghana. Given the complexities that involve multiple drivers and diverse disciplines influencing ASGM, an IA framework was used to analyze economic, social, health, and environmental data and to co-develop evidence-based responses in collaboration with pertinent stakeholders. We look at both micro- and macro-economic processes surrounding ASGM, including causes, challenges, and consequences. At the micro-level, social and economic evidence suggests that the principal reasons whereby most people engage in ASGM involve “push” factors aimed at meeting livelihood goals. ASGM provides an important source of income for both proximate and distant communities, representing a means of survival for impoverished farmers as well as an engine for small business growth. However, miners and their families often end up in a “poverty trap” of low productivity and indebtedness, which reduce even further their economic options. At a macro level, Ghana’s ASGM activities contribute significantly to the national economy even though they are sometimes operating illegally and at a disadvantage compared to large-scale industrial mining companies. Nevertheless, complex issues of land tenure, social stability, mining regulation and taxation, and environmental degradation undermine the viability and sustainability of ASGM as a livelihood strategy. Although more research is needed to understand these complex relationships, we point to key findings and insights from social science and economics research that can guide policies and actions aimed to address the unique challenges of ASGM in Ghana and elsewhere.
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