People have mined for gold in what is now Ghana for thousands of years. The precious metal has always been easy to find, hence the name the British gave the country when they colonised it: the Gold Coast. In this four-part film series, we investigate the role of illegal, small-scale mining — an increasingly important part of Ghana’s gold producing industry — and its impacts on human health and the environment.
As a result of a modern-day gold rush induced by a spike in the price of the metal triggered by the 2008 financial crisis, Ghana is now the second largest producer of gold in Africa. More than 30 per cent of this gold is produced by small-scale miners, known as galamseys, who often work illegally. Despite the price of gold having fallen over the past year, there is no sign of an end to the galamsey activity.
In this series, we travel to Ghana’s gold belt to meet the galamseys and learn about their struggle with poverty, pollution and stigma. The galamseys don’t know how to safely handle the mercury and other dangerous elements needed to extract and process gold, putting their health at risk, as well as that of those who eat fish from polluted rivers. As the mining industry keeps expanding, its toll on public health and the environment is morphing into a national crisis.
During our trip, we explore potential ways to turn this challenge into an opportunity, tapping into the economic potential of the mining sector while making sure that the galamseys are protected from health hazards and exploitation.
We also learn how Ghana’s gold rush has become an international race, with thousands of Chinese miners illegally entering the country over the past ten years.
Part 2: Land and rivers laid to waste
The second in a series of four films on illegal gold mining investigates its devastating impact on the nearby environment.
See our article series Mining with impact here