Voices from artisanal mining communities in Tarkwa-Nsuaem, Ghana

IIED and partners is organising a dialogue with people working in Ghana's artisanal and small-scale mining industry. This page features interviews with stakeholders in artisanal mining communities to set the scene.

Article, 19 January 2016
Collins Ade (washer, 17)

Friends of the Nation, with support from IIED, is convening a dialogue with people involved in Ghana's artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector. 

As part of the dialogue event, participants will meet with artisanal miners and others working in artisanal mining operations at the community level. Here are some of their stories:

Collins Ade (washer, 17)

I moved from Axim to mining three years ago when I was in junior high school. I was doing it on vacations to get money to pay my fees and that of my sister. I completed Junior High school in June 2015, I gained admission into the senior high school, but there was no money to further my education.

My mum used to work with Zoomlion but now she is unemployed because her health is failing. My dad passed away some few years back. I have four siblings, and only one is schooling because I am not able to cater for all of them.

The money I make, I use it for their food, clothing, my mum's medical bills and also my upkeep. I have plans of saving some of the money so I can go back to school. This job is my only hope right now.

Kojo Attah (washer, 25)

I completed junior high school in 2010, but I could not further my education because I had no one to support me. My mother died a year before I completed school. I had to struggle to complete, due to financial constraints because my father is very old and could not work.

I have two siblings and I have been responsible for their upkeep, education and even my father's upkeep ever since with the money I get from mining. I have also started some savings hoping to go back to school. For now, mining is my livelihood.

Maame Esi Rose (washer, 18)

I decided to learn how to sew. I did all the enquiries, then I realised that my family could not afford the money for the training. So I decided to move to Nsuaem to work and raise some money. 

I have been here for the past six months. It is the money from the washing of ore that I feed [live] on and also use to cater for my siblings' fees and upkeep. I also plan on saving for the trade I want to learn.

Alfred Cobbinah (foreman at Chang Fa, 25)

My mum died in 2006. Five days afterwards my dad also passed away. My younger brother and I were rejected and abandoned by our family. We virtually had nothing to feed on and we dropped out of school. I was then in the first year of senior high school.

I moved from Axim to engage in small-scale mining so I could take care of myself and my brother. It was the only job I could count on because it did not require any certificate or special skills. I was able to take my brother back to school and now he is in senior high school.

I have been able to build a three-bedroom house and I own a taxi cab. I am still saving towards a new business, but until then this is my only source of livelihood.

Juliana Tawiah (porter, 50)

I lived in Samreboi with my husband. We were both farmers with six children. At some point he started shirking his responsibilities and also cheating on me. Along the line my mother also fell sick and came to live with me. This was a strain on my finances and eventually on my marriage.

I had to move to Nsueam near Tarkwa to find something to do at the mine site to make a living. I have been a porter here for nine years, and this is how I have been able to sustain my family back in Sameboi. Even though the money is not much, it is far better than nothing. Two of my kids are still in primary school and we are all depending on this job.

Janet Ananeh (porter, 24)

My mother left me with my little siblings in Samreboi. She was sending money to us but I also had my needs.

Along the line I got pregnant and the man did not take responsibility for it, so four months after giving birth, I moved to Nsuaem to join my mum who works as a porter so I can make some money to take care of my child.

This is how I have been taking care of myself, my child, and also helping my mum pay the fees for my younger ones. I also want to save to learn a trade.

Mary Afua Owusu (trader at a mine site, 41)

I have been selling porridge, drinks, water and bread at the site for over 10 years now. This is my only job.

I have two kids, they are in school. My work is dependent on the work at the site. When the mining goes down people don't even come here, let alone buy, and my family is dependent on this job.

Bonyobo Kizito (miner, 34)

After senior high school I moved from the upper west region to Tarkwa in search of a job so I could help my family because we were facing serious financial problems.

My parents were farmers and didn't make much money and I had five younger siblings. At some point, they were growing old and couldn't continue. I have been mining for five years now; that is how I have been taking care of my family and also my siblings' schooling.

I have started putting up a house in Accra. I am married with two children and they are all in school. I am also saving so I can start my own business some day and give my children the best of education.

Philip Carthy (fair trade mine officer, 28)

I started mining in primary school. I used to go the site right after school to work with my twin brother so we could raise some money to take care of our school fees and upkeep. My dad died when we were babies and my mum wasn't healthy enough to work. And this is how we were able to complete junior high school.

I moved fully into small-scale mining. I even started mechanical engineering as a part-time course at the University of Mining and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa, but I had to drop out because of the financial constraints. 

I am now married with three kids, and they are all in school. I have also been helping my community members, especially when people come to ask for help. I am also saving to give my children a better life. 

Samuel Anku (general manager, Dakete Mines)

I am a chemical engineer by profession. I used to work with Ghana Industries HOC Distilleries for 12 years, and resigned in 2012 to take over as the general manager of Dakete Mines, which is more or less a family business.

The small-scale mining industry is quite challenging for me because it's an unknown territory for me. I had to face a lot of challenges initially. This has been compounded with issues related to the gold price and high cost of production, but we are still in it. 

I have a wife and four children who are all in school at the moment. I use the money I make here to take care of all four children, together with what my wife brings on board. My family's livelihood is now dependent on this, hence any adverse effect on ASM and specifically Dakete mines will negatively affect my family and others whose livelihoods are dependent on this mine site. 

Dakete Mines is paying its dues to humanity by providing a decent job for people, which we believe should be a sustainable one so that at least people who come in will have some hopes of staying in the job for a longer period of time. Currently, we have about 80 people who are directly on our payroll. Other people like the underground workers here who do their own work and sell to us will be affected as well. There are about 200 people who make ends meet here at Dakete Mines.

Evans Bonnie, aka Yalley Kofi (sump water, 24)

I've been working on this site for the past two years doing sump washing. I was schooling in Akwidaa in the Ahanta West district of the Western Region where I come from when I lost my father to chieftaincy disputes. He was an chief until he met his untimely death.

My mother was involved in an accident and is currently disabled in the leg. This has forced me into this job, and it really pays me well. I sometimes make GH₵100 (US$27) a day. At times, I'm even able to hit ₵700 ($190) a day.

Because of this, I'm able to send money back home to my mother to take care of her personal needs. Had it not been for this job, I don't know where I would have been. I feel very comfortable with the sump washing.