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Strained Relations: A Critical Analysis of the Mining Conflict in Prestea, Ghana


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This paper examines the dynamics of the ongoing conflict in Prestea, Ghana, where indigenous galamsey mining groups are operating illegally on a concession awarded to Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL), property of the Canadian-listed multinational Gold Star Resources. Despite being issued firm orders by the authorities to abandon their activities, galamsey leaders maintain that they are working areas of the concession that are of little interest to the company; they further counter that there are few alternative sources of local employment, which is why they are mining in the first place. Whilst the Ghanaian Government is in the process of setting aside plots to relocate illegal mining parties and is developing alternative livelihood projects, efforts are far from encouraging: in addition to a series of overlooked logistical problems, the areas earmarked for relocation have not yet been prospected to ascertain gold content, and the alternative income-earning activities identified are inappropriate. As has been the case throughout mineral-rich sub-Saharan Africa, the conflict in Prestea has come about largely because the national mining sector reform program, which prioritizes the expansion of predominantly foreign-controlled large-scale projects, has neglected the concerns of indigenous subsistence groups.
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Strained relations: A critical analysis of the
mining conflict in Prestea, Ghana
Gavin Hilson
*, Natalia Yakovleva
Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM),
School of Environment and Development, The University of Manchester,
Harold Hankins Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9QH, UK
The ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability,
Sustainability and Society (BRASS), 56 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK
This paper examines the dynamics of the ongoing conflict in Prestea, Ghana, where indigenous
galamsey mining groups are operating illegally on a concession awarded to Bogoso Gold Limited
(BGL), property of the Canadian-listed multinational Gold Star Resources. Despite being issued
firm orders by the authorities to abandon their activities, galamsey leaders maintain that they are
working areas of the concession that are of little interest to the company; they further counter that
there are few alternative sources of local employment, which is why they are mining in the first place.
Whilst the Ghanaian Government is in the process of setting aside plots to relocate illegal mining
parties and is developing alternative livelihood projects, efforts are far from encouraging: in addition
to a series of overlooked logistical problems, the areas earmarked for relocation have not yet been
prospected to ascertain gold content, and the alternative income-earning activities identified are inap-
propriate. As has been the case throughout mineral-rich sub-Saharan Africa, the conflict in Prestea has
come about largely because the national mining sector reform program, which prioritizes the expan-
sion of predominantly foreign-controlled large-scale projects, has neglected the concerns of indigenous
subsistence groups.
Ó2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: galamsey; Mining; Ghana; Gold; Conflicts; Livelihoods
* Corresponding author. Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM), School of Environment and
Development, The University of Manchester, Harold Hankins Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9QH, UK.
E-mail address: (G. Hilson).
0962-6298/$ - see front matter Ó2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Political Geography 26 (2007) 98e119
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Over the past two decades, many developing countries have worked diligently to attract for-
eign investment in their mining industries (Bridge, 2004; Holden, 2005; Pegg, 2006). Desperate
to lure previously wary investors, governments have rapidly reformed national mineral policies
and taxation codes, often in collaboration with the World Bank (Haselip & Hilson, 2005; Pegg,
2003). Both the Bank and its private sector supporters frequently cite how, in the developing
world, excessive state control of the mining sector in the 1970s and 1980s hurt its investment
prospects considerably (Morgan, 2002). The restrictive mining investment climates at the time,
particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, prompted hundreds of prospective foreign investors to shift
their focus to the more politically stable regimes of North America and Oceania (Maponga &
Maxwell, 2001).
More than 90 emainly developing ecountries have since redrafted their mineral codes and
policies (Bridge, 2004; Otto, 1997). Officials at the Bank maintain that these policy reforms,
which include extended security of tenure, waived import duties on equipment, tax breaks,
low royalty payments and in many cases, unrestricted repatriation of profits (Forster & Bills,
2002; Kumar, 1990; Rodriguez, 2004), have revitalized the developing world’s mineral econ-
omy, stimulating marked increases in production. Examples are often provided from sub-
Saharan Africa, where technological impotency and state restrictions had long prevented
many of the region’s key mineral deposits from being extracted. In addition to highlighting
the marked rise in gold output experienced in Ghana over the past 20 years, Bank officials
have pointed out that ‘.(gold) production in Mali.increased from just 1.5 metric tonnes
in 1990 to nearly 20 metric tonnes in 1998.[and].the number of exploration licenses in
counties such as Burkina Faso, where just a few years ago investors were as rare as rain in
the dry season, has mushroomed’’ (World Bank, 2004).
The rapid reform of the developing world’s mining economy, however, has also caused
a host of social problems, none more serious than community dislocation. As Ballard and
Banks (2003, p. 296) explain, ‘‘mineral resources.pose particular challenges to states in terms
of their relationships with local communities in the vicinity of a project.[largely because of]
the multiple and often conflicting interests being pursued by elements of the state’’. Under re-
form, it has been the primary objective of many African governments in particular to promote
large-scale mineral exploration and mining activity; but the consequent influx of predominantly
foreign parties has caused widespread community dislocation (Caruso, Colchester, MacKay,
Hildyard, & Nettleton, 2003; Downing, 2002), leading to significant backlash and occasionally,
violent conflict. Some of the more serious mining-community disputes have involved indige-
nous artisanal mining
groups and large-scale miners; these clashes have been heavily over-
shadowed by the politically motivated armed conflicts fuelled by mineral wealth in countries
such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (see Le Billion,
2001a, 2001b).
In the Global Report on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (Hentschel, Hruschka, & Priester,
2002), an integral output of the seminal Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development
(MMSD) Project, it is argued that ‘‘.within the framework of growing social sensitivity
and the efforts to apply policies of sustainable development, large mining companies have
Throughout this paper, the terms ‘‘artisanal mining’’ and ‘‘small-scale mining’’ are used interchangeably. Both com-
prise the most rudimentary branch of the mining sector.
99G. Hilson, N. Yakovleva / Political Geography 26 (2007) 98e119
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developed.a new outlook towards communities that are located within the areas of influence
of their mining projects and which are frequently inhabited by artisanal miners’’ (Hentschel
et al., 2002, p. 56). Nothing could be further from the truth: in recent years, tensions between
artisanal and large-scale mining parties have escalated, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Ac-
tions taken to mediate such disputes and concurrently formalize artisanal and small-scale min-
ing (ASM) activities (see ILO, 1999; UN, 1996, 2002), including the implementation of
licensing processes, credit schemes and extension, have, for the most part, been ineffective.
The contentious issue eand the source of conflict between these parties eis security of tenure,
which grassroots operators contend is insufficient given the costs, paperwork and labours asso-
ciated with securing a mineralized plot of land through legal channels (Hilson & Potter, 2003,
Among the more widely documented mining conflicts are the ongoing feuds and standoffs
between Ghana’s indigenous galamsey
and large-scale mine operators. Today, the most press-
ing of these persist in Prestea Town, where numerous galamsey ‘gangs’’ have converged, work-
ing portions of an idle underground gold deposit situated within Colorado-based (and
Canadian-listed) Golden Star Resources’ Bogoso mine concession. In March 2005, the govern-
ment issued a firm order for Prestea-based galamsey camps, including Number Four Bungalow,
‘I Trust My Legs’’, ECOMOG, Kutu Kutu and others working the Bondaye Shaft, to abandon
their operations. The demand was met with considerable resistance: local leaders countered by
stating that there are few alternative employment opportunities for villagers, the majority of
whom are redundant large-scale mine labourers and skilled professionals, and that galamsey
activities have been the lifeblood of Prestea Town since the late-1880s, long before Western
involvement in the country’s mining sector. Whilst conflict resolution measures have been pro-
posed by the authorities and mine managers, most have proved inappropriate in practice, re-
flecting a poor understanding of the nature of the dispute and needs of target galamsey
The purpose of this article, therefore, is twofold. First, it critically analyzes the dynamics of
the impasse at Prestea, presenting the perspectives of each group ethose of Bogoso staff, gov-
ernment officers and the galamsey eon the current debate. Second, the article critiques the
conflict resolution measures proposed by the government and the company. What wider lessons
emerge from this case study?
Mining sector reform and land tenure in Ghana
Conflicts such as those ongoing in Prestea are inextricably linked to Ghana’s multi-tiered
system of land rights, a problem which plagues most of sub-Saharan Africa:
‘Throughout Africa, property rights to land are fluid and insecure. Private property, state
ownership, and communally defined rights coexist in an ever-changing mix. Definitions
of communal tenure continually shift. The farmer or entrepreneur who claims land under
one property rights system can never be certain when (or if) others will challenge his
claims; neither can he predict whose claims the local community or state will uphold’’.
(Firmin-Sellers, 1996, p. 1)
A local term given to illegal artisanal miners, the literal translation of which is ‘‘gather them and sell’’. The majority
of galamsey are men, although women do carry out manual tasks (lifting, carrying ore, etc.) and staff the flourishing
markets that emerge alongside operations.
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In the early-1980s, an attempt was made by Ghana’s then-president Jerry Rawlings to offset
decades of perpetual decline in national mineral production. Under the auspices of the national
Economic Recovery Program (ERP), initiatives were taken to establish a more favourable in-
vestment climate in the country’s mining sector (Hilson & Nyame, 2006). The exercise entailed
an extensive review of some 78 acts, ordinances, codes and laws regulating the industry (Hil-
son, 2004), leading to the enactment of the Minerals and Mining Law (PNDCL 153) which im-
portantly, empowers the President of Ghana to ‘‘acquire any land or authorize the occupation
and use of any land that is required to secure the development or utilization of a mineral re-
source under any applicable law’’ (Botchway, 1998, p. 526).
From the standpoint of production, mining sector reform has been a major success in Ghana,
perhaps nowhere more so than in the gold economy. At the time of the launch of the ERP, the
industry was in a state of economic crisis: the 232,000 oz of gold production achieved in 1982
was two-thirds that of 1960, and all signs pointed to continued stagnation; but the investment
incentives embodied within revised legislation, including a low royalty rate of 3 per cent, the
removal of restrictions pertaining to the transfer of dividends, a reduced mining tax, fixed de-
preciation allowances and waived import duties (Utter, 1992), have facilitated a 700 per cent
increase in gold mine production over the past 20 years. By 1990, the sector had attracted
US$460 million in outside investment, and to date has attracted well over US$1 billion in
new investment for exploration, support for new operations and financial assistance for the re-
furbishment of existing sites. In the period 1983e1998 alone, some US$4 billion was invested
in the sector, and at present, 237 companies (154 Ghanaian and 83 foreign) are prospecting for
gold, and an additional 18 companies have operating gold mines (Addy, 1998; Aryee, 2001;
Tsikata, 1997).
These appraisals, however, fail to account for the impacts expanding operations have had on
indigenous communities. Today, one-third of the Western Region of Ghana, the location of 50
per cent of the country’s operating gold mines, has been demarcated to large-scale mining com-
panies, and in the Wassa West district alone, 60 per cent of lands are now under concession
(Aubynn, 1997); this has not boded well for rural inhabitants. Referring specifically to the
Ghana case, Akabzaa and Darimani (2001, p. 45) note that ‘‘large-scale surface mining has
taken up large tracts of land, from farmers [and] at the same time.mining activities do not
provide enough jobs to match the total number of people laid off from agriculture because
of the impact of mining’’. Moreover, few indigenous groups appear to understand how a super-
imposed system of mineral rights, developed without sufficient consultation with affected com-
munities, has managed to supplant the traditional land tenure schemes that have been rigidly
adhered to for generations. Under traditional communal land tenure systems, the direct descen-
dents of a landholder inherit their rights without losing them to a larger group (Asabere, 1994).
Typically, ‘‘a customary authority, such as a tribal chief, grants claims and regulates the transfer
of land’’ (Besley, 1995, p. 904), which may be owned by stools or skins, clans, families, indi-
viduals, groups of individuals, corporate bodies or the state (da Rocha, 2003). In the case of
Ghana, ‘‘all rural (nonurban) lands are still largely controlled by chiefs or traditional heads’’
(Asabere, 1994, p. 284). Artisanal galamsey often claim that they have the endorsement of these
individuals and/or have been granted permission to work on companies’ concessions. Large-
scale mine managers, however, maintain that they have exclusive rights to land, having
acquired concessions through legal channels.
Mounting conflicts, such as those in Prestea, have put the Ghanaian Government in a precar-
ious, and unenviable, position. On the one hand, by exerting pressure to relinquish unused por-
tions of awarded concessions, the authorities run the risk of ruining relations with large-scale
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mining companies; and doing so would show incompetence on their part and could be inter-
preted as their endorsing illegal mining activity, which could jeopardize future investment pros-
pects. Even if the authorities were to agree that this was the way forward, they would likely
experience considerable difficulty in extracting awarded land: rather than turning over portions
of an awarded concession to ASM parties, ‘‘the management of international mining corpora-
tions typically elects to withhold lands’’ (Andrew & Hilson, 2003, p. 28). Moreover, although
‘many mining companies hold large tracts of land that would otherwise be available to farmers’
(Akabzaa & Darimani, 2001, p. 67), because mineral titles in Ghana are non-transferable, the
relinquishment of demarcated plots would require special intervention and approval of the
Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines esomething which has not happened to date.
On the other hand, there is incentive for the government to regularize and support galamsey
because it ensures that gold is captured and remains in the country, which contributes positively
to foreign exchange (Hilson & Potter, 2003). An estimated 71 per cent of the gold mined in
Ghana to date is now lying in offshore accounts (Campbell, 2003a, 2003b)ea result of the
plethora of tax breaks now offered to multinational mining companies to operate in the country
(Pegg, 2003)ewhich is further reason for the government to ensure that its complex network
of 800 gold buying agents, who travel to all corners of the country to purchase gold from both
legal and illegal small-scale miners, is functioning effectively. The individuals who have taken
up jobs as galamsey, including those working in the camps in Prestea, are testament to how in
Ghana, ‘‘large-scale mining operations eboth exploration and exploitation rights ehave alien-
ated large tracts’’ and how the resulting ‘‘illegal small-scale mining has been attributed to the
unavailability of land.[that] the only viable option remaining .is to work alienated lands or
other restricted areas’’ (Aryee, 2003, p. 409). It can therefore be argued that the government
also has an obligation to improve the quality of life of its citizens, which, in a country plagued
by widespread unemployment, particularly in rural areas, could be achieved through developing
income-earning activities such as ASM on unused portions of large-scale concessions.
The feud in Prestea is the latest in a long line of mining-related conflicts in Ghana but is
unique in one respect: whilst encroachment is taking place, galamsey appear to be working
stretches that the company has minimal interest in developing.
Background to the conflict in Prestea
For over 100 years, Prestea,
which is located in south-western Ghana approximately
200 km west of the country capital of Accra, has been an important location for industrial-scale
gold mining: to date, more than eleven million ounces of gold have been produced in Prestea
and the adjacent Bogoso locality. Currently, Golden Star Resources, a Canadian-listed multina-
tional which acquired a 90 per cent share in Bogoso Gold Limited (‘‘BGL’’) in 2004, owns the
145 km
Bogoso concession; the surface mining rights of the adjoining 129 km
Prestea prop-
erty; a joint venture interest in the Prestea underground mine; and a number of contiguous prop-
erties west and north of Bogoso, known respectively as Akropong and Dunkwa (Fig. 1). Over
the past two decades, these concessions have changed ownership several times (Golden Star
According to local tradition, the name ‘‘Prestea’’ is a corrupted pronunciation of the phrase ‘‘Preston’s Well’’. In the
1700s, an Englishman known as ‘‘Preston’’ had constructed a well to aid with the excavation and processing of local
surface gold deposits ubiquitous in the area at the time.
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Resources, 2004). This has caused considerable confusion in the community, and has likely
gone a long way toward fuelling the current conflict in Prestea.
The State Gold Mining Corporation (SGMC) began mining in Prestea during the early-1960s,
and subsequently obtained both local surface and underground mineral rights through its subsid-
iary, Prestea Goldfields Limited (PGL); but production at the underground operation started to
stagnate in the 1970s, and began to exhibit signs of permanent deterioration in the early-1980s.
Following lengthy discussions with, among others, the Divestiture Implementation Committee,
the government signed, between 1994 and 1996, three agreements with the Johannesburg Consol-
idation Investment Group (JCI Barnex Group). The details of these agreements are as follows:
1) A mining lease agreement (13/10/94) forged between JCI Barnex and the government
covering an area of 129.05 km
of the Prestea concession (providing surface/underground
2) A project development agreement (13/09/95) forged between the government, SGMC and
PGL on the one hand, and JCI Barnex on the other.
3) A ‘main agreement’ (20/05/96), which empowered JCI Barnex to assume full manage-
ment of the existing Prestea underground operation.
The mining rights granted to JCI Barnex provided entitlement to SGMC dumps, tips,
deposits, tailings and calcines.
Fig. 1. Golden Star Resources Ltd.’s BGL Concession, Western Region, Ghana.
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In September 1998, however, JCI Barnex announced that it was closing the underground
project on account of declining gold prices and continued financial losses. This was met
with strong opposition from employees, who, in turn, formed Prestea Gold Resources
(PGR), which in December 1998, was granted a permit to continue operating underground.
Despite the optimistic efforts of its staff to address inefficiencies and mine more profitably, fi-
nancial records indicate that the company incurred heavy financial losses in 1999 (US$1.3 mil-
lion), 2000 (US$1.8 million) and 2001 (US$4.6 million): it had become apparent that
immediate action was needed in order to save the company from complete collapse. At the
end of 2001, PGR had not paid five months’ arrears of employee salaries, prompting a section
of the workforce to take action on the 20th of January 2002 to secure their payments; the mine
was closed shortly after.
In March 2002, a joint venture was made between BGL, SGMC, the Ghana Mine Workers
Union, the Ghanaian Government and PGR to manage Prestea’s underground operations. All
parties agreed that BGL should provide the necessary funds of US$2.4 million dollars to pay
employee arrears, severance benefits, and outstanding debts to smaller creditors. Two separate
payments were to be made: a) US$1.6 million immediately; and b) US$0.8 million upon recom-
mencement of mining activities. It was also agreed that BGL would finance the joint venture
and assess the future feasibility of the underground project in Prestea (see Table 1 for a sum-
mary of the mine’s history).
Whilst large-scale mining activity continues to flourish throughout Bogoso and adjoining
areas, since the signing of the aforementioned agreements, Prestea has been a location of intense
disputes between mining parties and the government. For economic reasons, the underground
operation, long the chief source of employment in the town, has not been reopened by BGL,
prompting thousands of locals and migrant labourers to continue mining the deposit as unregis-
tered galamsey. Despite working in areas where the company is not operating and appears to
have little intention to work, the government has repeatedly called for all illegal artisanal
gold miners operating in Prestea to abandon their activities. Tensions have been exacerbated
by the company’s failure to relinquish all uneconomic portions of the concession esections
of the underground deposit in particular eas well as the refusal of staff at Golden Star
Resources, now the majority holder in BGL, to honour a resettlement package negotiated by
previous management.
To improve understanding of the current impasse at Prestea and identify possible ways
forward, semi-structured interviews were carried out with 10 government officials, BGL
officers, 10 representatives from local NGOs and other key stakeholders (academics and
The pooling together of some US$2 million in statutory terminal benefits paid to workers by JCI Barnex was used as
working capital to finance the restart of operations.
Prior to Golden Star Resources’ takeover of the BGL concession, two separate consultations were held with locals to
identify an appropriate course of action for resettlement and compensation. Despite lacking the funding to carry through
with the promise, BGL gave locals the impression that the agreement reached would be legally binding, flying in the
company’s chief executive at the time to participate in negotiations and sign a document detailing the plans for reset-
tlement. It is alleged that the company, in addition to having agreed to provide millions of dollars in compensation, was
prepared to relocate affected Presteans to a location with provisional housing, an access road, 10 boreholes, a school and
a bus service. Once Golden Star Resources acquired a majority stake in BGL, however, none of these agreements were
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industry representatives), and the leaders of all affected galamsey groups between May and
September 2005. The data presented in the sections that follow were, therefore, drawn from
the verbatim transcripts of interviews with respondents. All quotations represent word-
for-word transcriptions from tapes and in each case, pseudonyms are used to preserve
Analysis of each viewpoint is essential if appropriate conflict resolution measures are to be
Perspectives on the impasse at Prestea
Each stakeholder group presents valid arguments in support of its position: the managers of
foreign-based mining companies charge that they have exclusive rights to land, having secured
the requisite permits; artisanal galamsey claim that they have indigenous ties to land, have ob-
tained ‘‘permission’’ to work on companies’ concessions, and/or that recent policy changes are
inappropriate because they had previously operated undisturbed; and the government argues
that as an authority, it eand it alone eis responsible for mining-related policy issues in the
country, which includes decisions concerning where parties can operate. Today, tensions are
widespread throughout several of Ghana’s mining localities, including Obuasi, Tarkwa and
The impasse at Prestea, however, is a unique case that has attracted considerable attention
both locally and internationally. Tensions peaked in June 2005 when, during a public demon-
stration against BGL’s operations, the army opened fire on the crowd, wounding seven locals.
Table 1
Chronology of major events in Prestea, 1870sepresent
Year Events
1873 Mining, primarily underground, starts at Prestea. At the time, the Prestea concession comprised a
number of different licenses secured by several independent mining companies.
1965 All companies operating at the current Prestea concession were amalgamated by the post-independence
Government of Ghana into Prestea Goldfields Limited under the State Gold Mining Corporation
(SGMC). Prestea Goldfield Limited begins working both surface and underground gold deposits.
1986 The Minerals and Mining Law (PNDCL 153) is passed, which vests all minerals in the state.
1994 Johannesburg Consolidation Investment Group (JCI Barnex Group) wins a privatization bid for
participation in Prestea mining operation.
JCI Barnex closes down the underground mine at Prestea.
Prestea Gold Resources (PGR) is formed by ex-employees of the underground mine, and is granted
a permit by the government to operate the underground mine.
June 2001 The Government of Ghana grants BGL a lease for surface rights down to a depth of 200 m. It
furthermore grants PGR the rights to mine underground below this level. BGL acquires the Prestea
mining lease for a period of 30 years, which covers surface and mining rights.
February 2002 PGR ceases operation of the Prestea underground mine after incurring a series of financial losses.
March 2002 The Prestea Underground Joint Venture is formed between BGL, SGMC, the Ghana Mine Workers
Union, the Ghanaian Government and PGR to manage Prestea’s underground operation. It is agreed that
BGL manages the venture.
1 December
BGL (90 per cent subsidiary of Golden Star Resources) acquires 90 per cent of the interest in the Prestea
underground mine (the remaining 10 per cent is acquired by the Government of Ghana).
May 2005 The Government of Ghana announces its relocation plans for illegal miners operating in Western
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The nature and sensitivity of the conflict requires identification and implementation of site-
specific conflict resolution measures.
The government and BGL
In Ghana, the large-scale mining sector is regulated by the Minerals and Mining Law
(PNDCL 153), as amended by the Minerals and Mining Amendment Act 1993 (Act 475) and
the provisions of the Constitution of 1992 (Article 156) esuperimposed legislation that vests
all mineral deposits in the president on behalf of, and in trust for, the people of Ghana (after
Aubynn, 2006). The authorities, however, have done a poor job of informing communities
about the law; nor are there any sound provisions in place for community and social impact
assessment, which has been a chief criticism voiced by NGOs and a main reason why Ghana’s
mining legislation is being revised yet again.
Initially, the Ghanaian Government had set a March 31st 2005 deadline (later revised to May
31st 2005) for all galamsey miners to vacate the BGL concession. As explained at the time by
the Regional Minister, ‘‘the not intended to deprive [illegal] operators of their
means of livelihood but to safeguard national security’’
; he furthermore stressed that the
ban was part of a larger policy to phase out illegal mining altogether. The official press state-
ment issued by the Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines reads: ‘‘For the past two years, illegal
miners have invaded this [Prestea] concession, making it difficult for the company to carry out
its planned programmes’’. This, however, is simply another strand of what is arguably a con-
frontational policy stance toward illegal mining. Despite claiming in the press statement that
‘Government show a ‘Human Face’ to the exercise by ensuring that some areas
were identified to enable illegal miners who were arrested in becoming small scale miners to
move to’’, with few exceptions, the standard approach taken to deal with illegal mining in
Ghana is force ethat is, to solicit the services of the army and private security groups.
This stance is a manifestation of how BGL officers and government officials have concep-
tualized the impasse. Although there is consensus worldwide that ASM is typically practised in
the poorest and most remote rural areas by men and women with few employment alternatives
(MMSD, 2002), few of the officers consulted conceded this to be the case in Prestea, despite the
wealth of evidence pointing toward poverty and a lack of alternative employment being the
principal driving forces behind the proliferation of local galamsey activities. Company officials
believe the problem is more an issue of community perception rather than economic survival:
‘The main issue is.the mindset of those people ethe galamsey people ewhatever the
government has to do to change their mindsets.unless that is really done, and like I said,
there should be some radical way of doing it.Prestea people think there are unique, they
are in a different state, and they can make their own constitution’’. (BGL official)
The majority of policymakers in Accra support the company, although their reasons for do-
ing so are questionable: despite participating in few meaningful exercises aimed at addressing
the social aspects of illegal mining, most are quick to provide an unsubstantiated view of the
mindsets of its participants. Prestea-based galamsey are passive and have repeatedly expressed
an interest in reaching a settlement with BGL through peaceful negotiation; but rather than lis-
tening to these groups, the authorities have elected to further marginalize them. Today, the
‘Galamsey to be banned in the Western Region this month’’, Public Agenda 18/03/05, Accra.
106 G. Hilson, N. Yakovleva / Political Geography 26 (2007) 98e119
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consensus in government circles is that illegal miners are ‘violent’’ and should be avoided at all
costs. As one government official put it:
‘But at times the guys are, you know, violent, it is not that you go.and say ‘I am a reg-
ulator, I have come [so] you have to leave the place’. They may lynch you! So, we cau-
tiously discuss with them.’’
Another official insisted that ‘they [galamsey] are mostly the wanted criminals and escaped
convicts of our society who are fleeing the authorities to make money and are [therefore]
Government agencies, in particular the EPA, have made a concerted effort to inform the pub-
lic about the ‘‘menacing’’ nature of galamsey activities,
in many cases using media outlets to
reach wider audiences. For example, in a recent article published in the Washington Herald and
reproduced in several other newspapers, including the Toronto Star and Washington Times,an
EPA officer is quoted as saying: ‘‘they [galamsey] are illegal operators, and they are armed,
very violent, and they don’t obey any rules’’ (Palmer & Sackey, 2004). Paradoxically, the
very officers who have gone to such lengths to publicize this information are the least familiar
with the situation on the ground, rarely travelling to mining communities. Notably, the EPA has
no regulatory responsibilities in the ASM sector, apart from administering an Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) seen by officers from many other regulatory bodies as more of a bu-
reaucratic hurdle and money-making initiative than sound regulatory practice (Hilson & Potter,
2003); the accuracy of the statements made by EPA officers concerning ASM is therefore
Fortunately, there is another ealbeit minority egroup in government who appear more
sympathetic toward illegal mining. These people have generally come from field posts to as-
sume more senior positions in Accra, and are thus more familiar with the situation on the
ground. The group recognizes that there are wider economic issues propelling illegal mining
activity nationwide:
‘‘.the unemployment situation has also become worse. In fact, in Ghana.about
200,000 young men leave the SSS every year and you have less than 10 per cent or
at most, 20 per cent going to the universities and polytechnics and all of that and
the rest have nothing to do, you see. So, every year you have, say, about 100,000 com-
ing into the [galamsey] system.In the galamsey groups, the ages are now far younger
than they used to be. At the early stages, it was the people who had returned from the
mines who were actually coming into the galamsey, but now.’ (Senior government
It is imperative that these officers take the lead and establish contact with galamsey heads,
and facilitate dialogue between Presteans and BGL officers. If left in the hands of the EPA and
other government officers, public agitation toward galamsey operators will mount, and prob-
lems with illegal mining will intensify.
The former website of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, the representative body of the country’s mining sector, de-
scribed the galamsey as a ‘‘menace’’, as has the Bank of Ghana, which, in its recent publication Report on the Mining
Sector (Bank of Ghana, 2003), refers to the existence of widespread artisanal gold mining activity as ‘‘The Menace of
‘Galamsey’ Operations’’.
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The galamsey: a silent, marginalized voice?
The position of BGL toward illegal mining appears firm, as hinted by one company official:
‘as far as we are concerned, we don’t even recognize them [galamsey] because we see them as
people robbing our property.and I see them as any other armed robber.’ The government,
which has been called upon by various parties eincluding BGL eto mediate the crisis in Pre-
stea, also appears adamantly opposed to engaging in discussions with galamsey, a point rein-
forced by one officer, who explained that extending assistance to such illegal mining groups
would be ‘‘just like an armed robber breaking through someone’s window, and you go there
and basically give him a push’’. Dialogue initiated by representatives of Prestea’s galamsey
camps, particularly Number Four Bungalow and ‘‘I Trust My Legs’’,
therefore, rarely materi-
alizes into meaningful consultation. In fact, unless accompanied by local members of parlia-
ment or other influential people, there is little chance of galamsey leaders entering the BGL
compound, let alone voicing their concerns.
Despite BGL officers’ insistence that galamsey ‘still think that that right (mining) belongs
to them [and that they] don’t even understand what is law’’, communities do recognize that they
are mining illegally. As one senior officer at Number Four Bungalow explained, ‘‘what we are
doing here, we normally don’t have a relationship, they [BGL] don’t come to we, we don’t go to
them, because our mining, our jobs here are not legalized’’. Illegal miners have simply not been
pressured by BGL staff to vacate the Prestea concession because the company has little inten-
tion of working the former underground operation. It is the recent antagonistic approach taken
by the government toward illegal mining that has prompted many Presteans to initiate dialogue
with BGL staff, with the hope that the company will relinquish unused portions of its conces-
sion so that locals can register as small-scale miners and have the security of tenure they so
desperately seek.
The promises that BGL have failed to fulfil in the area of community development have been
the main causes of community opposition to the mine. As previously explained, as a precondi-
tion for its acquisition of the Bogoso and Prestea concessions, BGL was required to conduct
a feasibility study of the underground operation, which at one time employed at least 3000 lo-
cals. When a decision was made not to reopen the mine on economic grounds, redundant la-
bourers called for BGL to free up areas of the concession. The importance of this move was
explained at length by a galamsey leader in Bondaye:
‘‘You k n ow.we are fighting the BGL, you have taken the whole land, so give us some that we can get some small job.There’s no job in the country and then the
BGL people have taken the whole land so what the community is saying is ‘give us
some place’, so that we can [work]. We need to.’’
Following meetings with Prestea-based galamsey in January 2003, BGL staff drafted a circu-
which reiterated the company’s commitment to ‘‘continue with the exploration of the un-
derground mine to determine the economics of the mine’’ and most significantly, explained that
There are conflicting views on how the ‘‘I Trust My Legs’ label came about. According to an article in Grist Mag-
azine (Harkinson, 2003), it is a reference made to several of the camp’s galamsey miners having ‘‘trusted their legs’
when successfully fleeing on foot from security forces. In communicating with the local chief, however, the ‘‘I Trust
My Legs’’ label has come about because the specific mine labour itself is arduous, involving extensive underground
work and therefore requiring considerable ‘‘trust in one’s legs’’.
Circular entitled Memorandum of Understanding Between Bogoso Gold Limited and Prestea-Himan-Bondai Area.
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‘BGL, in conjunction with government, shall assist in identification of a site for registered
small scale miners to carry out legalized mining activities’’. Letters were subsequently drafted
and signed by company officials permitting miners to operate on the concession.
These agreements, however, have provided communities with little protection. Government
officials claim that these letters are not legally binding, which raises a more important question:
why has BGL not relinquished, to the government, uneconomic areas of the Prestea concession
for possible demarcation to small-scale miners? As one operator at Number Four Bungalow
explained, ‘‘the people are not working so try and give them some small land [so] they [the
galamsey] will get their peace, they [BGL] will get their peace and at the same time the govern-
ment will too get their peace’’. It was claimed during interviews with BGL officials erecently
hired by the new parent corporation, Golden Star Resources ethat this has not been done be-
cause the company was told it would be held accountable for environmental damages incurred
within the ceded areas; but this is incorrect because once demarcated as legal small-scale mine
concessions, it is the respective title holders, again, who are mandated by the EPA to complete an
EIA, who are held responsible for protecting the environment.
Overall, BGL is doing very little to improve relations with the residents of Prestea, largely
because of the belief of its officers that the local illegal mining problem is the responsibility of
the government. One galamsey miner explained that the people of the community believe that
the only reason why BGL has turned a blind eye to illegal mining activity in Prestea is that staff
‘realized that they can only have peace when the whole community has been given a small
place to carry on with their former activities, which is virtually the small-scale mining’’.
The company, however, is not helping to regularize these operations; moreover, new manage-
ment has failed to uphold several of the commitments made by previous management to local
economic development, and as a result, has lost the trust of the community entirely. This, to
a large degree, is why, as one government officer put it, ‘‘the people of Prestea will never
let BGL mine peacefully’’.
An assessment of proposed solutions
In order for governments to identify appropriate solutions at the grassroots, target popula-
tions and community dynamics must be studied in detail. Critics of ASM support point out
that this has generally not occurred, consequently leading to the implementation of inappropri-
ate support facilities, legislation and policies. Governments seem fixated on ‘‘finding.solu-
tions to mining and processing problems, with scant heed being paid to the underlying
economic, labour and social issues’’ (Jennings, 1999, p. 5). This appears to be the case with
the Prestea conflict: despite growing agreement worldwide that the ‘‘implementation of techni-
cal changes, modification and improvements require in almost any case detailed knowledge of
the cultural, social, economic and organisational context of [artisanal] miners’’ (Hentschel
et al., 2002, p. 45), government officers and BGL officials have attempted to resolve the
Following a meeting held on 29th January 2003 between the-then BGL mine manager, BGL security consultants,
and Prestea Mining Group executives, it was agreed that the Four Bungalow site would be released to the Prestea Min-
ing Group for small-scale mining activities. The details of the agreement were as follows: a) that the site will be op-
erated solely by the people of Prestea, Himan and Bondaye; b) that only 100 pits and 100 people shall be allowed
to operate on the site; and c) that ejection of operation from Four Bungalow shall be based strictly upon negotiation.
The residents of Prestea were supplied electricity and water free of charge during the period of SGMC’s ownership.
The situation has, of course, changed under privatization, with BGL no longer supplying these services.
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impasse without interacting with affected groups. The two main solutions proposed esustain-
able livelihoods projects and a relocation exercise ehave therefore been developed without
sufficient analysis of conditions on the ground.
Sustainable livelihoods
The term ‘‘Sustainable Livelihoods’’ (SL) was conceptualized to improve understanding of,
and support livelihoods in, rural areas (Carney, 1998; Ngugi & Nyariki, 2005). Since Chambers
and Conway (1991) introduced the concept in the development literature some 15 years ago, it
has been used ‘‘as a normative goal, as a framework for conceptual analysis and as a set of prin-
ciples for action’’ (Toner & Franks, 2006, p. 82). In the mining sector, however, SL is increas-
ingly being used as a synonym for ‘‘alternative livelihoods’’ (Labonne & Gilman, 1999):
specific criteria and frameworks have been adopted to identify ways in which to diversify local
economies, or means for offsetting rural inhabitants’ dependency on illegal ASM for economic
The implementation of SL projects has been identified by the Ghanaian Government and
NGOs as a possible means for alleviating the conflict at Prestea/Bogoso; to date, several initia-
tives have been undertaken. For example, through the Food and Agricultural Organization, the
United Nations pledged US$400,000 to develop sericulture in Ghana, an activity which has
since become the foundation of BGL’s ‘‘Alternative Livelihood Project’’. The company has har-
vested 80,000 silkworm eggs as part of a program its officers claim will ‘‘assist neighbouring
communities to become self-reliant and create employment opportunities for their people’’.
Another SL initiative receiving considerable attention is grass-cutter
rearing, as well as an
assortment of agricultural-based activities ranging from cassava harvesting to oil palm
The effectiveness of local economic development initiatives hinges upon policymakers’ abil-
ities to mobilize key actors, organizations and resources; develop new institutions and local sys-
tems through dialogue and strategic action; provide local ownership and control; and develop
local markets (after Helmsing, 2003). The SL projects implemented in Prestea/Bogoso and ad-
jacent mining localities, however, have failed to address the aforementioned criteria, having
been conceived following short and cursory episodes of fieldwork. One key ASM stakeholder
described these initiatives as ‘‘fashionable projects’’:
‘‘.There are some fashionable projects. I call them ‘fashionable things’.They trained
people to do batik and soap making, and.there are things that if you look at them very
carefully, they are not viable. If someone in Bogoso or some village in Damang is doing
batik, what is the quality of batik you will make? How many people will come to Ghana
to buy it? So at the end of the day, he will know how to make the batik but he will never
apply it. It will come in the newspaper that some people have trained some women to do me, I think it’s more for the newspapers but it must be studied and done in
a way that will be viable and people will want to stick to it.’’
‘Wassa West farmers to begin Silk Farming’’, Accra Daily Mail 20/04/04.
The grass-cutter (Thryonomys swinderianus) is a rodent of the suborder Hystricomorpha. It is a fat, furry animal
whose natural habitat is the tall grassland of the Guinea Savannah. The average adult weight is 3 kg for females and
4.5 kg for males, and its meat is an important source of protein for rural tribes in Ghana and many other African
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Communications with miners in Prestea reinforce this view. A galamsey head at ‘‘I Trust My
Legs’’, for example, explained that:
‘We are ready to do other skills.They [BGL and the government] brought in a livelihood
project but they were asking us to do grass-cutter rearing, snail rearing.We are endowed
with snails.I will take you to the back here, and I will count about 100 snails. I don’t
even eat them. You have to go into will find about 1000 snails dodging and
then moving around. We don’t even eat them. Who’s going to buy? Who is going to help
me and take them into Kumasi?’’
It was furthermore noted that the start-up funding being provided by BGL for silkworm cul-
tivation is insufficient because it can take up to one year to begin earning a profit, which is
hardly an appropriate alternative for impoverished groups.
The mining company is also not in tune with the skills present in Prestea’s galamsey camps.
During communications with workers at the Number Four Bungalow camp, it was explained
that, contrary to claims made by BGL officers that ‘‘they [galamsey] are all illiterates.almost
all of them are illiterates’’, there is an abundance of trained and skilled individuals working as
illegal artisanal miners in Prestea:
‘They [the galamsey] have transported their skills because some are blast men and blast
men with certificates, [and] we have, how do you call it.drillers, we have the drill-
ers.We have machine drivers, we have machine men and what do you call it, carpenters.
What I say is, when you talk of machine drivers, when we dig the rock we teach him to be
the machine driver. The ones who put the timber, we teach him to be one of the timber
men, and.the ones who work in the haulage.they are the shaft-men, the shaft-men, see
that the haulage-way is always safety. These are some of the skills.’’ ( galamsey elder,
Number Four Bungalow)
Why has local SL work not taken advantage of these skills? As one key stakeholder put it,
for re-skilling exercises to be successful in the ASM sector, ‘‘we must prove that moving them
will get them at least what they are getting as galamsey’. There is little chance that the alter-
native livelihood projects being implemented in the BGL catchment area, the majority of which
have been developed without extensive analysis of local community dynamics, are capable of
doing so.
Wherever economically feasible, large-scale miners have sought to uproot, relocate and
compensate communities situated within the boundaries of their concessions ethough agree-
ments have often proved unsustainable, in turn, causing a series of long-term problems. Notable
examples include Yanacocha in Peru, Las Cristinas in Venezuela, and Teberebie in Ghana
(MMSD, 2002; Veiga, Scoble, & McAllister, 2002; Whiteman & Mamen, 2002). In these,
and similar, cases, large-scale mining companies working in tandem with governments have
overlooked several community needs, failing to devote considerable time to liaise with, and
study the dynamics of, relocated groups. Specifically, questions such as, Is the infrastructure
in the relocated locality appropriate for incoming parties? Are there income-earning opportu-
nities available in these settings? and What is the breadth of skill within relocated groups? were
not adequately addressed beforehand. It appears that a similar approach has been taken in
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As a follow-up to the revised May 31st 2005 deadline for illegal miners operating in the
Western Region to abandon their activities, the Acting Chief Director of the Ministry of Lands,
Forestry and Mines at the time announced that the government was working to identify alter-
native areas for Prestea-based galamsey to form cooperatives and register their operations.
These included Japa in the Western Region; Adjumadium, also in the Western Region; and
Winneba in the Central Region. It was later argued in a CNN Matthews press release, that
‘‘.having made these areas available, it is high time all illegal miners working on Golden
Star’s Concession took advantage of the opportunity created and vacated Bogoso Limited con-
cessions by May 31 2005’’.
It was added that ‘‘these three identified areas can host nearly 600
cooperatives or groups of at least 10 members each’’.
The accuracy of these claims, however, is open to debate for a number of reasons. First, has the
Ghanaian Government prospected these areas to ascertain their mineral content?
Whilst some
US$1.88 million was pledged under the World Bank Mining Sector Environmental Project to
prospect and demarcate areas suitable for ASM, the initiative failed because of financial misman-
agement and a series of logistical problems (World Bank, 1995). The Ghanaian Government
continues to overlook the importance of prospecting, failing to produce detailed geochemical
maps and identify areas appropriate for ASM: there is little chance that miners will relocate to
areas where the mineral content has not been determined. This is a major concern, particularly
for Winneba, where it is well known that the country’s gold belts thin considerably. A telling
sign of Winneba’s questionable mineral potential is the low concentration of existing galamsey
One key stakeholder sees the undefined mineral content of the area as a concern:
‘If they [the galamsey] can be assured that there is gold there, then they will probably
move. But why didn’t they go there in the first place? If they were sure of gold being
there, why didn’t they go there? Let’s assume that they didn’t know, hadn’t been told,
but is there gold?.Why have they not moved? Why, if the government has a place where
it can be legal and no-one will harass you, have they not rushed there? So we have to ask
those questions’’.
The highly mineralized Japa poses another challenge entirely: with more than 300 galamsey
camps currently on hand, where does the government intend to resettle Prestea-based opera-
tors? Locals confirmed during visits to Japa some two months after the Minister’s announce-
ment that government officers had yet to visit the location. Moreover, if followed through,
the move promises to cause further conflict. The galamsey consulted in both Japa and Prestea
indicated that an influx of ‘‘non-native’’ artisanal miners would intensify competition for lim-
ited gold resources, netting individuals less profits. One stakeholder consulted was also cogni-
zant of this:
‘‘.I am sceptical.whether the Japa people would be prepared to accept ‘foreigners’
coming to mine there. I don’t know what has been done to get that in place.I have
‘Golden Star Reports on Ghanaian Government Nationwide Action to Stop Illegal Mining’’,¼check4Cookies&actionFor¼543716, CNN Matthews,
31/05/05, accessed 28/09/05.
At the time at which this research was being carried out, the Geological Survey Department was beginning to pros-
pect near Bondaye to identify areas suitable for ASM.
It is a well-known fact that prospecting companies in Ghana have used indigenous people, who possess a deep
knowledge of local geology, to identify economic deposits.
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a feeling that people will be very protective of their territories, so if people from let’s say
Tarkwa have been asked by the government to go to Winneba or Japa, the people in Win-
neba and Japa who probably are galamsey themselves might say ‘look we are not enter-
taining them there’’’.
Moreover, a local (registered) small-scale miner is in the process of organizing Japa-based
galamsey equipment owners into a cooperative to help them obtain a small-scale mining li-
cense. The problem, however, is that the very land that the government has demarcated for
the resettlement is also being targeted for the license.
Secondly, such a rapid relocation exercise overlooks local economic needs. As Helmsing
(2003, p. 68) explains, in the context of local economic development in Africa, ‘‘markets do
not emerge spontaneously.[and] the success of the innovating peasant.or small entrepreneur
depends on the presence, effectiveness and efficiency of ‘related and supporting’ services’’. The
galamsey of Prestea understand this: despite the claim made by one government officer of
‘once a miner, always a miner’’, certain operators are reluctant to relocate not because of their
fixation with mining per se, but because they recognize that an inevitable outcome of a mass
migration of settlers is the economic collapse of vacated townships. As one miner explained:
‘When we get to Japa.what we earn we will spend it at Japa, so we talk about the im-
pacts to the community then the community cannot survive at Prestea.Because we talk
of the impact on the community.This work we are doing, what we get from here, we
want to spend the money in Prestea, and that based on that, it also boosts the morale
of the community’’.
Another miner at Number Four Bungalow echoed these words, explaining that ‘‘in 2001
[when we came], since this time, it is this activity that is bringing the money to the community
[of Prestea], so the decision to go to Japa or Winneba, fine [but] it is not good, though’’. An-
other important microeconomic issue that must be taken into account by the government is in-
vestment: several Prestea-based miners are being sponsored by local chiefs and buyers, and
have invested heavily in mining equipment. This issue was touched upon during an interview
with one leader at Number Four Bungalow:
‘It has been a long investment, because we were here for about two years and you can
imagine the sort of money we put up.Meanwhile, we have invested a huge sum of
money every day on the concession eon this area. So that means, if you are pushing
us away to a different area, to start or to begin a fresh operation, we need money and
the land is not much .[We have] invested forty million (cedis)’’.
Senior personnel at ‘‘I Trust My Legs’’ and ECOMOG also discussed the issue of invest-
ment, voicing concerns that a forceful move would cause them to lose equipment financed
by independents.
Finally, the government appears to have overlooked several logistical issues in its proposal e
issues that many local journalists monitoring the conflict have failed to highlight in their re-
ports. For example, in a recent article published in the Ghanaian Chronicle, it was suggested
that operators at Number Four Bungalow are opposed to relocation, reporting that one leader
argued: ‘‘we are settlers on Prestea and we think that this is something good. We want govern-
ment to make it [‘galamsey’] legal, there should be a second look at moving us from here’’
(Ghanaian Chronicle, 2005). What the newspaper failed to outline, however, were the basic lo-
gistical issues raised by targeted mining populations over the plots designated for resettlement.
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The first concerns distance. On the suggestion of moving to Winneba, a mine leader at ECO-
MOG indicated ‘‘it’s too far for us,.we have got this work and we are doing it.we are [there-
fore] not willing to go.if they think the place is good, they should give it to other investors to
also go there’’. A galamsey leader at Number Four Bungalow was also outspoken on the issue:
‘The impact? Let us consider the people working here were leaving for Japa. It’s a small
village, so if we move from here many kilometres, that means we have to find transport,
find homes there. In fact, it is a big problem.The whole community of Prestea, you have
to be real. We have to move from here 700 km away? Look at the one in the Western
Region in Japa? How?.There is no place that the government has put aside for this
in Japa or Winneba’’.
It appears that the government has overlooked these issues; nor does it appear to have any
idea of the scale of the proposed undertaking. As one miner in Bondaye explained, during the
operation of the underground mine, ‘‘.the workers were many.we were three thousand
workers, so three thousand multiplied by your family means [almost] ten thousand’’. It is es-
timated that during the dry season, 5000 individuals work at the Number Four Bungalow
camp alone.
To summarize, the government has overlooked a number of important issues. Many officers
appear distracted by what they have interpreted to be a ‘‘positive response’’ to the relocation
plan ethat is, by the number of individuals who have signed up for a concession. This, how-
ever, is likely misleading. As one stakeholder explained during an interview, ‘‘most of the peo-
ple who have signed up reside in Accra, not in Prestea’s mining areas’’. During visits to
galamsey camps in Prestea, it was confirmed that few, if any, miners had responded to the ‘‘Pro-
gram Implementation’’ component of the demarcation exercise; in fact, few appeared to have
any knowledge of the sign-up altogether. A gang leader at ‘‘I Trust My Legs’’ summed up the
challenge of implementing the proposed relocation plan:
‘If you want to go there to go and [get] ore, you will have to go and move us, and where
will we get the finance to go to that place? And looking at the population here, as of now,
we have not less than 10,000 galamsey operators here. To move 10,000 people from here
even to Japa, where are we going to get the finance? Where are we going to get this ac-
commodation? What are we going to eat and do there? Have you seen if the environment
is good enough for us there? How are you going to get education for 2000 children?’
To avoid further complications, greater attention must be paid to such detail.
Reform of the mining sector has facilitated unprecedented increases in mineral production in
Ghana and elsewhere in the developing world. The rapid rises in copper output witnessed in
Zambia over the past decade, the recent upsurge in gold mine and industrial minerals produc-
tion in Tanzania, and increase in gold production in Mali are all owed to the implementation of
revised mineral policies that provide a host of incentives to prospective investors. In Ghana,
gold mine production has experienced a 700 per cent increase over the past 20 years, in large
part because of major changes to mineral policies. These ‘‘achievements’ have helped galva-
nize the World Bank’s view that major mining reforms ‘‘not only attract private investment, but
provide the policy framework for that investment to contribute to development’’ (World Bank,
2002, p. v).
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Reform of the mining sector, however, has also brought with it a host of problems, many of
which go overlooked in appraisals of the performance of the extractive industries in developing
countries. Conducted under the auspices of the World Bank and backed by Western investors,
the mining sector reform process has failed to address, comprehensively, several important
community and social issues. Among the most significant of these is the widespread dislocation
and disempowerment of subsistence artisanal miners, which, more often than not, results in
community backlash (after Andrew, 2003). Incoming mining companies certainly provide roy-
alty payments to host governments and bring with them the promise of enhanced community
development, but artisanal miners themselves also make important economic contributions
and perhaps more importantly, provide numerous job opportunities to otherwise-unemployed
people. In fact, given that indigenous operators seek exclusively near-market payments in local
currency for their product, a case can be made that, for gold, artisanal mining makes more of
adirect contribution to foreign exchange and national coffers than large-scale mines, which ex-
port their product and repatriate profits.
In a number of African, Latin American and Asian countries, the privatization of parastatal
operations and the formalization of artisanal activities have been the two main goals of mining
sector reform, though it has been the former that has been prioritized, often at the expense of
the latter: the small number of registered ASM operators in the developing world is testament
to how difficult the reform process has made securing a small-scale license. Whether a direct
consequence of understaffed and under-resourced mining agencies incapable of managing the
rapid inflow of multinational companies or fundamental flaws with investment policies, as il-
lustrated by the Prestea case, incoming mineral exploration and mining companies are typically
awarded large plots of land, significant stretches of which go unused; but Prestea is by no
means alone in this regard. For similar reasons, parallel pockets of insurgency persist within
other major mining localities in Ghana, including New Abirem (Eastern Region) and Obuasi
(Ashanti Region), as well in other areas of gold-rich sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa,
for example, where vast stretches of land have been awarded to multinational mining compa-
nies, ‘‘the availability of deposits and the daunting task of acquiring mineral rights limit the
activities of artisanal and small-scale miners’’ (Mutemeri & Petersen, 2002, p. 288). Similarly,
throughout Tanzania, there have been ‘‘social conflicts between small-scale miners and the
large-scale mining companies, as the (small-scale) miners have begun to find that areas previ-
ously open to prospecting and mining of gold is now under the control of a private foreign com-
pany’’ (Kitula, 2006, p. 411). In one case, the government evicted as many as 400,000 rural
people from the Bulyanhulu area in 1996, claiming it was ‘‘acting to assert mining rights
claimed by Kahama Mining Corporation Limited’’, a large-scale mining company (MMSD,
2002, p. 325). Conflicts have intensified because incoming mining operations, which are highly
mechanized, have failed to provide significant numbers of jobs, and that activities have taken
land out of the hands of peasant farmers. Unable to farm and secure land for any other
economic activity, thousands of the ‘‘[landless], jobless and unemployed.resort to (illegal)
artisanal mining for subsistence, as minerals become the natural resource of last resort’
(Labonne & Gilman, 1999, p. 4).
Of major concern is how conflicts between ASM and large-scale mining parties are being
portrayed both in the media and the academic literature. Frequently, the terms ‘‘encroachment’
and ‘‘invasive’’ are used out of context to describe illegal artisanal mining activities. Even the
tone of documents intended to provide perspective on small-scale miners’ struggles tends to
condemn illegal activities and sympathize with mining companies. A case in point is the ILO’s
seminal report, Social and Labour Issues in Small-Scale Mines (ILO, 1999, p. 66), which states:
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‘Established mining companies are wary of the activities of small-scale miners for many
reasons, often with some justification, particularly when they encroach on mine property.
The actions of illegal miners not only affect a mining company’s day-to-day operations
.Companies can face considerable difficulties if they choose to become directly in-
volved in removing small-scale miners from their concessions. Such action can make
them vulnerable to accusations of human rights violations, attract the hostility of miners
(even their own workers) and prompt direct protest action’’.
The misconception, however, and something which the ILO fails to clarify in its report is
that both mining parties congregate around different types of deposits: with few exceptions,
conflicts are not a result of competition for the same mineral resources, as media channels com-
monly portray but rather over unused lands that large-scale miners refuse to relinquish. As is
explained in a recent USAID report, ‘‘large-scale, industrial mining typically exploits minerals
hidden in deeper veins with the help of specialist know-how and heavy-duty equipment.[whil-
st].Artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) exploit more accessible surface deposits using ba-
sic, often self-made tools’’ (USAID, 2005, p. 3). With their rudimentary implements, ‘‘artisanal
miners concentrate on alluvial materials, outcrops or shallow deposits where mining technology
and safety issues are less sophisticated’’ (Granville, 2001, p. 69) and have occasionally ‘‘con-
gregated around large-scale mines, taking advantage some of the larger compa-
ny’s waste’’ (MMSD, 2002, p. 324). In spite of this, in Ghana itself, the media continue to
condemn galamsey operators, branding them as ‘‘illegal’’, ‘‘violent’’ and ‘‘criminals’’. More-
over, officers at the Ghana Chamber of Mines refuse to initiate dialogue with galamsey, describ-
ing them as ‘‘a menace’’ (Bank of Ghana, 2003), at the same time overlooking the reason for
their ‘‘illegal status’ethat the land on which they work, despite being demarcated to multi-
nationals, contains deposits that are uneconomical to mine using mechanized means (Carson
et al., 2005, p. 43). As correctly pointed out by the ILO in its report, ‘‘[direct] action can
make them (mining companies) vulnerable to accusations of human rights violations’’ but in
Prestea, other important localities in Ghana, parts of Tanzania and Mali, conflicts between ar-
tisanal mining parties and companies can be avoided outright if the latter relinquish unused
lands to the former.
Recurring conflicts between indigenous artisanal and foreign large-scale miners, combined
with a number of other problems caused by increased levels of mechanized mining activity,
including community dislocation, resettlement and environmental concerns, have led many
to openly criticize mining sector reform as well as question the intentions of the World
Bank, the driver of the reform process. The debate has gathered considerable momentum in
both academic and policymaking circles in recent years, where questions have been raised con-
cerning whether the benefits of mining sector reform, hitherto emphasizing export-based
growth and prioritizing the expansion of predominantly foreign-controlled large-scale mineral
exploration and mining activities, outweigh the costs. Campbell (2003a), for example, points to
how several of the revamped mineral investment policies implemented under reform provide
generous incentives to large-scale mine investors but at the same time, promise few benefits
to host governments and their citizens. Similarly, Pegg (2006, p. 383) observes that the unprec-
edented increases in foreign investment in Africa’s large-scale mining sector have failed to fa-
cilitate significant social and economic improvements within the communities where activities
take place.
In response to a host of earlier criticisms of mining sector reform (e.g. Ross, 2001; Weber-
Fahr, 2002) as well as similar concerns discussed at length during the Prague World Bank-IMF
116 G. Hilson, N. Yakovleva / Political Geography 26 (2007) 98e119
Author's personal copy
Annual Meetings in June 2000, then-World Bank president James Wolfensohn launched the Ex-
tractive Industries Review (EIR), a recently concluded independent assessment process in-
tended to solicit feedback on the Bank’s involvement in the extractive industries.
Researchers used the international forum, which identified ASM as a priority issue, as a vehicle
for publicizing findings which condemn the organization’s involvement in mining projects
worldwide. The final report of the EIR, Striking a Better Balance (EIR, 2003), has been her-
alded as the Bank’s manifesto for improving transparency within, and ultimately increasing
the socio-economic impact of, the mining sector in developing countries.
The specific issue that this article has raised for debate, however, is whether indigenous
ASM groups and large-scale mine operators can coexist harmoniously. The key to improving
relations between these parties and avoiding a debacle such as that in Prestea is to also prior-
itize ASM formalization in policy, and to pressure mining companies to relinquish unused por-
tions of demarcated concessions.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Communities and Small-Scale Mining
(CASM) Fifth Annual General Meeting and Learning Event, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, Sep-
tember 18e24, 2005. Funding for this research was provided by the BRASS Centre, Cardiff
University, and the Ghana Chamber of Mines. The authors would like to thank all of the
individuals who participated in interviews, particularly BGL staff and government officers,
who put aside time in their busy schedules, as well as Dr. Frank Nyame and Chief Nana
Kasapreko Kwame Bassanyin III of Wassa Akropong, whose invaluable assistance made this
research possible. Finally, the authors would like to thank Dr. James Sidaway and two anony-
mous reviewers, who provided constructive feedback on previous drafts of this manuscript.
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... In contrast, empirical analyses have shown mixed results, including limited development benefits, social unrest, and human rights violations (e.g., Ballard & Banks, 2003;Bebbington & Bury, 2013;Gamu, Le Billon, & Spiegel, 2015). Scholars have also highlighted tensions between industrial mining operations and small-scale miners (e.g., Geenen, 2014;Hilson & Yakovleva, 2007;Patel, Rogan, Cuba, & Bebbington, 2016). These struggles have spurred debates over land tenure, the distribution of mineral-derived benefits, and whether or not large-and small-scale mining can peacefully co-exist (Hilson, Sauerwein, & Owen, 2020;Kemp & Owen, 2019;Verbrugge, 2017). ...
... Despite policies to the contrary, small-scale and industrial mining have often spatially overlapped in Indonesia (e.g., Camba, 2021;Langston et al., 2015;Williams, 1988). Sometimes this juxtaposition has resulted in conflict (Aspinall, 2001), as observed in mining locations throughout the world (e.g., Geenen, 2014;Hilson & Yakovleva, 2007;Kemp & Owen, 2019). Such tensions have been a motivating factor in policymaking. ...
Resource extraction shapes the people who live and work in its midst. In Pongkor, Indonesia, these transformations revolve around long-running tensions between large- and small-scale gold miners. The region is home to a state-owned industrial mine as well as thousands of unlicensed, small-scale miners. These actors have competed over the same gold deposits, and who has the authority to mine them, for more than three decades. In this article, I examine how this resource conflict informs multiple, co-constitutive extractive subjectivities in Pongkor. I expand upon existing analyses of resource governance, extractive development, and environmental conflict by examining the multi-directional, interrelated processes of subject formation entailed in asserting claims to resources. Drawing on ethnographic research, I frame the situation in Pongkor as a territorial conflict with three competing subject formation processes at its core. First, the mining company has attempted to end small-scale mining by reconstituting local people as more amenable development subjects. It emphasizes particular nationalistic, economic, and moral values through both disciplinary and community development programs. Second, small-scale miners have responded by cultivating political subjectivities grounded in a collective “community miner” identity. Community miners go beyond simply participating in gold-based livelihoods; they learn to argue for rights to local resources. Third, the mining company has pursued internal reforms aimed at remaking itself and its employees. Using small-scale miners as a foil, company leaders work to reposition their operations as a model of clean and green development. In tracing these processes, I complicate narratives of industrial extractive dominance and community resistance by demonstrating that subjects inside and outside of mining operations are co-constituted. I call for further research on the shaping of varied subject positions—including corporate mining employees, small-scale miners, and local residents—involved in extractive conflicts.
... In Ghana, some informal gold miners operate in the abandoned open pits of large-scale mining companies. In the case of the Prestea-Bondaye mining area, most informal gold miners work in the abandoned pits of multinational large-scale mining companies (Arthur-Holmes and Abrefa Busia, 2022a;Hilson and Yakovleva, 2007). Some small-scale mining operators, especially those with licensed 1 Interview with an alluvial miner (employing Chang fa processing method) on 25 July 2017, Bondaye. ...
... Further to this, Hilson (2019) emphasised that the policy framework that exists for extractive industries in most African countries is characterised by what he refers to as a large-scale mining 'bias', which enables 'governments to secure steady streams of revenue in the form of taxes, rents and permit fees from large-scale mining and mineral exploration companies with relative ease' : 2) while failing to show commitment to growing the ASM sector. Hilson and Yakovleva (2007) also noted that the release of large concessions to multinational mining companies has deprived communities in Prestea of fertile lands for farming, therefore, causing some to engage in informal gold mining. In the PBMA and some other mining communities in Ghana, local people find it difficult to have piece of land to register for a mining permit. ...
This paper aims to examine methods of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Ghana, map their perceived impacts on water resources, and analyse the implications of these perceptions for meeting the targets related to Clean Water of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6). The paper draws on 74 interviews with artisanal and small-scale gold miners and other stakeholders to investigate communities' perceptions of the effects of ASM methods (alluvial mining, surface/open-pit mining, and underground mining) on water bodies. We find that different ASM methods impact surface and groundwater in distinct ways while concurrently having a synergistic negative effect on water bodies. Stakeholders-including community leaders-perceive that the mining methods employed in ASM cause various forms of environmental degradation-thus affecting progress towards SDG 6, target 6.3 (water quality)-and severely hinder the availability of clean water for domestic and agricultural purposes, thus endangering the livelihoods of communities and affecting progress towards SDG 6, target 6.4 (sustainable water use). The community perceived impacts of ASM activities on water resources have implications for community acceptance of formalisation efforts in Ghana. We contend that a better understanding of these perceived impacts can help shape the country's policy for achieving the targets of SDG 6 in relation to Clean Water by 2030. In particular, we propose that the integration of the Community Mining Scheme as part of formalisation efforts of informal gold mining in Ghana not only responds to SDG 6 target 6b (participation of local communities in water management) but also has the potential to reverse the current large-scale mining 'bias' in policy, while addressing the galamsey challenge that contributes to the increasing impact of informal gold mining on SDG 6, targets 6.3 and 6.4.
... The extractive activities of the mines interact with most of the peasant communities (about 2900) located in the Peruvian highlands, so there is a constant risk of threat to the environment since it is a way of life that depends too much on the resources contained in an ecosystem, as is the case of the Peruvian highlands [21,22]. This circumstance is aggravated by the 8571 environmental liabilities generated by abandoned mines, [23] and the discharge of almost 13 billion m 3 of poorly processed wastewater [24]. Consequently, any mining exploitation above 3500 m above sea level is detrimental to water resource management [25,26]. ...
Full-text available
The objective of this study is to evaluate the contamination of water resources in the Parac subbasin. The existing contamination by heavy metals due to the presence of mining companies is of great concern to the population that inhabits the area since health is being affected. A methodology has been used as an integrated approach based on pollution assessment indices. Five surface water samples and seven groundwater samples were collected in the Parac subbasin, in the vicinity of the Tamboraque tailings. Physicochemical parameters and heavy metals (Al, As, Br, Pb, Fe, Cd, Mn, Hg, B, Ni, Cu, and Se) were analyzed. The mean concentrations of Al, As, Ba, Cu, Fe, Pb, and Zn were 0.3 mg/L, 0.02 mg/L, 0.02 mg/L, 0.05 mg/L, 0.8 mg/L, 0.04 mg/L, and 0.12 mg/L respectively. HPI, HEI, and Cd indices were averaged around 1378.5, 134.5, and 126.5 respectively, HPI and Cd values were above 100 as a critical contamination index value, which indicates that the water samples are critically contaminated with respect to the heavy metals studied. The total variance was 88.11% of the water quality with two components according to the ACP analysis. Al, As, Cu, Fe, Pb, Zn, and Mn showed a high positive charge on PC1 (69.68%) while Ba and Mo had a high positive charge on PC2 (18.12%). The intensity of distribution of metals As, Fe, Mn, and Pb in surface and groundwater is an environmental concern and a more complete monitoring network is needed for the sustainable management of water resources.
... The second reason is because these interactions readily induce social and environmental impact and harm. Decades of mining research have documented and analysed the mining-induced impacts of: social disruption, conflict, and loss of cultural connection to people and place (Gaventa, 1980;Hilson & Yakovleva, 2007;Langton & Mazel, 2008;Petrova & Marinova, 2013;Whiteman & Mamen, 2002); the mining complex and its inherent dangers, including the hazards associated with waste generation and storage, and emissions, pollutants, and other discharges into inhabited environments (Bridge, 2004;Dudka & Adriano, 1997;Ochieng et al., 2010;Owen et al., 2020;Walton & Barnett, 2007); human displacement and resettlement (Downing, 2002;Szablowski, 2002); and other forms of encroachment associated with population influx (Sincovich et al., 2018) and the expanding of industrial footprints beyond officially sanctioned mining lease areas (Banks, 2013). Based on the sheer complexity and combination of intersecting and accumulating impacts and issues in extractive landscapes (Lèbre et al., 2020) community grievances are largely inevitable. ...
Full-text available
Grievance landscapes form in rapidly industrialising contexts where social and environmental impacts are inevitable. This paper focuses on the complex operational and organisational settings in which grievances arise and the industrial pathologies that form around resource development projects. The arguments draw on classic and contemporary literature on “grievance”, “right” and “entitlement”, and the authors’ own sustained engagement with global mining companies and local communities. Our contention is that the grievance landscape is far more critical to understanding environmental, human rights, and mining interactions than the managerial systems that companies construct to signal compliance with voluntary international norms. These managerial systems, or operational-level grievance mechanisms, map the procedural contours of how a local grievance would travel once it is made visible to the company. In practice, however, it is fiction, illegibility and invisibility that dominate. Across the pathologies, the common denominator is the corporate propensity to avoid recognising the legitimacy of a local grievance and the source of its cause.
... In Africa, artisanal miners' claims are indeed ofen viewed as lacking legitimacy. As Hilson and Yakovleva (2007) describe, the emphasis when discussing artisanal miners in Ghana is ofen their perceived unpredictability and violent behaviour. Corporate actors and government ofcials in southeastern DRC view miners in a similar way. ...
This paper examines how Malagasy dina—local-level codes considered ‘customary law’ in Madagascar—have been enrolled in competing projects of territorial production. In doing so, it engages with conversations regarding the mobilization of indigenous forms—here manifested in the guise of ‘authentic’ institutions—to stake claims and govern behavior on extractive frontiers. Drawing on ethnographic evidence from Betsiaka, a rural commune in Madagascar’s far north, I show how a gold mining-specific dina has figured in local leaders’ struggles against state-corporate interventions; in external actors’ strategies of domination; and in intracommunity contests between factions seeking wealth and power in the diggings.
Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) plays a significant socio-economic role in the alleviation of poverty. In Ghana, the increase in and persistence of illegal ASM (galamsey) can be explained by unemployment, cumbersome and costly registration, lack of land, corruption and Chinese engagement. Traditionally, Ghanaian governments have neglected to address ASM activities by means of policy, while publicly emphasizing its negative impacts. In 2017, the media campaign #StopGalamsey became a culmination of this process. This study represents a qualitative content analysis of #StopGalamsey media discourses. It aims to understand how galamsey was framed in the media during the first two years of the campaign. Based on an analysis of 176 articles from the Daily Graphic newspaper, four dominant frames were identified – environmental menace, criminal activity, complex menace and corruption and collusion. Galamsey was portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative way, miners were dehumanised and criminalised, conflicting perspectives marginalised, and non-traditional perception emphasised via Chinese engagement.
Full-text available
In this chapter, the arguments and evidence from proceeding chapters are woven together to discuss how informality can lead to an erosion in democracy. Additional political analysis from 2021–2022 help frame the argument of a precarious future for the country’s political stability. At the same time, the book ends on a note of hope by returning to the voice of the Zama Zama, and how they construct agency and meaning in the face of ontological insecurity.KeywordsReligionPrayerZama ZamaFormalisationPoliticsState CaptureLooting
In the face of rising graduate unemployment, an increasing number of graduates in Ghana has joined the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector. Hitherto, graduates were reluctant to take up jobs in ASM let alone move into rural areas to engage in ASM. In light of these ongoing employment dynamics, we investigate the reasons why educated youth in Ghana join the ASM sector by using digital interviewing methods (2 phone and 17 WhatsApp instant messenger interviews). Further, we examine how university graduates' involvement in ASM transforms the rural communities they work in and how they are in turn shaped by the communities. These rural transformations have important policy considerations for this distinct youth group due to their 'non-typical' association as ASM workers and how formalisation within the sector can increase the gains they actualise from the sector as a source of employment. We find that most university graduates join ASM because of four reasons: 1) ASM serves as a primary livelihood source because of lack of alternatives, 2) lack of employment opportunities (graduate positions) in the cities, 3) for income diversification, and 4) opportunity to start a business in a profitable sector/higher remuneration in ASM compared to other employment sectors. Among other things, graduates' involvement in ASM transforms rural communities in the following ways: 1) reconfiguring the spatial mobilities of graduate employment avenues towards rural areas, 2) promoting locally-anchored community development, 3) stimulating local economy through linkages to other sectors/industries, and 4) influencing rural labour dynamics in ASM communities. Given these dynamics of rural transformation, educated youth involvement in ASM questions the singular conceptualisation of ASM as 'a poverty-driven activity' and helps scholars to reconceptualise and recontextualise ASM considering the view of ASM as an 'entrepreneurial activity', and 'a community activity' for traditional authorities to generate funds for local development. The policy implications of our findings on the formalisation of ASM and the promotion of youth employment in the ASM sector in Ghana and potentially, elsewhere in Africa are discussed.
Ghana legally recognizes ASM as a legitimate livelihood source with formalization blueprints for operators. However, the regulation of ASM activities in Ghana can largely be described as unsuccessful. Evidence shows that more than 85% of small-scale mining operations still occur in the informal and illegal sector of the economy outside the purview of state regulation. This paper examines grassroots perspectives on why despite existing formalization initiatives, miners continue to operate ‘illegally’. It finds that, first, the transient and migratory character of local mines do not synchronize with the complex and lengthy bureaucratic licensing regime currently in place, defeating any economic logic for illegal miners wanting to formalize. Second, the regulatory regime takes on a generic formalization framework for all of the country's diverse ASM operations and fails to link the various types of the sector's operations to appropriate levels and forms of control, neglecting the compliance capacity of the sector's rudimentary and subsistence operators. Greater institutional support for miners is recommended to build their capacity and credits support for their operations to improve the longevity of local mines. Also, urgent policy reforms are needed to enhance a multi-tier reclassification of Ghana's ASM sector to create the necessary conditions for compliance and accountability from all miners.
This book explores the complex political process by which property rights were defined and enforced in two traditional states in colonial Ghana. The case studies ask how colonial institutions transformed indigenous political and economic life; and how colonization and decolonization affected prospects for future economic development and stability in Africa. There are three sections, covering: the institutions of the colonial state; the evolution of property rights under indirect rule (the 'reinvention of tradition'); and the transition to independent government. The introductory chapter outlines a theory for the transformation of property rights. The remaining chapters apply this formal theory through an empirical analysis of the transformation of property rights within an African context. These chapters draw explicitly on rational choice theories to analyze indigenous actors' attempts to redefine and enforce property rights to land by 'reinventing' the traditions of their respective communities. These theories help to explain why property rights systems across Africa remain fluid and insecure.
Since colonial times, mineral policy in Ghana has concentrated on gold, diamonds, bauxite and manganese for export. After Ghana obtained independence from Britain in 1957, the basic framework of mineral rights was revised and a new regime established. The state became owner of minerals in the ground. State enterprises were involved in production and marketing of minerals. A restrictive exchange control regime and high fiscal imposts affected the mining sector. A radical change of policy has occurred since 1983, aimed at encouraging and regulating both large and small-scale mining for export. An increased portion of revenue from mining is being allocated to the communities directly affected by the operations. Consideration is being given to the development of industrial minerals for local use or processing.
Since 1985, over 90 nations have introduced, or are now working on, new or major revisions to legislation pertinent to the mining industry. In many of these nations, including developed, developing and transition economy nations, efforts to reform mineral regulatory systems have been slow to proceed. The author argues that to facilitate such regulatory reform, it can be useful to undertake changes within the framework of a comprehensive, consensually derived and articulated national mineral policy. To illustrate the types of subject matter that might be addressed in such a policy, a list of possible policy issues are presented in a tabular form. The author does not attempt to prioritise or recommend any particular policy goals and objectives, rather he concludes that a national mineral policy must be tailored to reflect the individual requirements of each nation.