Ghana: on our way to participatory reform in the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector

Project

With an engaged government, private sector and multi-stakeholder engagements already in place with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities, Ghana provides an excellent opportunity for a dialogue that delivers solutions to the challenges facing the ASM sector.

Working in shifts, an artisanal and small-scale miner in the Western region of Ghana relaxes at the top of a 15m mine shaft reinforced with a wooden 'cage' after several hours of digging (Photo: James McQuilken (@James_McQuilken/j.mcquilken@surrey.ac.uk))

IIED's first in a series of local multi-stakeholder dialogues on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) started in Ghana in autumn 2015. 

During a 'visioning workshop' on ASM in April 2015, participants from around the world came together to discuss the pressing challenges and opportunities for ASM, and which countries might benefit most from a locally-driven dialogue process. 

After numerous cross-country comparisons, Ghana emerged as the strongest candidate for IIED's first local dialogue on ASM.

Ghana: an overview

Ghana is on the cusp of a real opportunity for change. Mining is a major contributor to the country's economy. In 2014 alone, 34 per cent of the country's gold production came from the ASM sector. In addition, the government is actively pursuing the re-categorisation of its mineral licensing regime, including ASM.

Ghana has also begun prioritising ASM as a national issue and a developmental opportunity to be realised. The country boasts a robust and engaged civil society network, much of which has active efforts in place to support ASM. The dialogue process is helping tap into and support relevant initiatives.

The potential benefits from a more inclusive, sustainable and productive Ghanaian mining sector, with ASM fully integrated, are staggering. Approximately 1.1 million Ghanaians directly participate in ASM, while a further 4.4 million are considered to be dependent on ASM.

A fully functional, formalised and regulated ASM business sector could unlock significant local, regional and national development gains for the country and its people.

Towards participatory sector reform

So far, the dialogue process has supported Ghanaian stakeholders to identify priorities for participatory sector reform – a long-held wish of the authorities. Through research, dialogue and communications, IIED helped stakeholders dissect the problem into manageable pieces, bring the right people together, agree a plan of action and appoint leaders to guide them. 

Following six months of research and consultation involving ASM miners, large mining companies, national and local government, academics and civil society, IIED and Ghanaian NGO Friends of the Nation hosted a solution-focused dialogue in January 2016 in the mining district of Tarkwa.

During four days – including two days spent visiting mine sites and mining communities – participants learned from one another, forged new relationships, and decided together what was needed to tackle ASM's pitfalls and realise ASM's potentials. 

The strength of this initiative lies in the diversity of its leadership group. Together we can build an ASM sector that is streamlined, respected and generates employment and wealth. We are close to a major change in the way we do artisanal and small-scale mining in Ghana. – Toni Aubynn, chief executive officer of the Ghana Minerals Commission 

IIED is now supporting a group of Ghanaian government, business and community leaders – Ghana's Learning and Leadership Group – to implement the roadmap for sector reform. 

Its priorities include demonstrating the 'business case' for responsible ASM, improving practices within the sector, building support for ASM across government institutions, and ensuring that miners in ASM, particularly women, have a stronger voice in decision making. 

Transforming Ghana's ASM sector

OutputsOutcomes
Dialogue event identifying a vision for changeParticipants motivated and engaged in thinking through positive solutions for the ASM sector
Roadmap for sector reform and 12-month action plan for implementationStakeholders have consensus on an agenda for change with practical and implementable next steps
National and multi-stakeholder Learning and Leadership Group establishedLeadership and enthusiasm for a collaboratively defined and implementable agenda
Evidence base gathered using participatory and inclusive research methodologiesImproved information and knowledge on the sector, its challenges and its potential solutions

Related links

Publications

Transforming mining through dialogue (2016), IIED Flyer

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Ghana. Evidence to inform an Action Dialogue, James McQuilken, Gavin Hilson (2016), IIED Report

Donors

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation 

Ford Foundation

Contact

Fitsum Weldegiorgis (Fitsum.Weldegiorgis@iied.org), senior researcher,  IIED's Shaping Sustainable Markets research group