Not coping with artisanal mining in Ghana

From Chapter 7 of the African Transformation Report

The regulatory frameworks in Ghana have not integrated artisanal mining activities into the mainstream economy. As a result, artisanal mining coexists, often in conflict, with large-scale mining. Many aspects of the artisanal mining value chain are unregulated, and legitimate traditional activities are often confused with “illegal mining.”

The land tenure system vests much of the administration of land rights in traditional leaders, while mineral rights are vested in the state. The separation poses a challenge for state institutions seeking to regulate artisanal mining because access to land is the first regulatory gateway. Reconciling the role of traditional leaders and the state may require establishing a single and final authority for artisanal mining. This could resolve the licensing of exploitation; the setting of health, safety, and environmental standards; and the monitoring of production, sales, and exports.

Revenue collection is complicated by the formal and informal structures that regulate artisanal mining, by the informality of artisanal mining, by the large numbers of miners involved, and by the structure of the artisanal value chain. Informality means that miners cannot be easily identified and traced for tax purposes. Many Ghanaian traders in the artisanal value chain are merely agents of foreign buyers that have links to global commodity markets. So the prices paid in Ghana do not reflect the true market value, and the state and citizens do not receive fair value.

Social and physical environmental challenges receive inadequate regulatory control and monitoring. The Obuasi gold areas show how artisanal mining can destroy the environment. The use of mercury persists despite the well known negative environmental impacts. And health and work conditions defy global conventions for labor and industrial relations.

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