The Illegal Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (Galamsey) ‘Menace’ in Ghana: Is Military-Style Approach the Answer?

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Water bodies, Galamsey, Military-style, Catch and release, Inequalities, Ghana

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The Illegal Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (Galamsey) ‘Menace’ in Ghana: Is a Military-Style Approach the Answer?

The artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector accounts for approximately 31 percent of the total gold production in Ghana and plays a significant role in the economic development of the country. However, the recent alarming levels of water pollution associated with illegal ASM operations have ignited serious debate, sustained media campaigns, mounting public condemnation, and sustained pressure on the government to find a lasting solution to ASM operations in the country. In response, the government has turned to the use of a military-style approach (military and police taskforce) to ‘flush out’ illegal ASM operators. Relying on key informant interviews, newspaper reports, and household surveys, this paper investigates the sustainability of the use of a military-style approach to eliminate illegal ASM operations. The evidence suggests that through arrests and confiscation and destruction of mining equipment, the turbidity levels of some water bodies improved. However, due to the powerful influence some politicians and traditional authorities command in the ASM sector, the military-style approach often becomes ineffective leading to a ‘catch and release’ pattern, which is discriminatory and promotes inequalities with disproportionate impacts on poor illegal ASM communities. The findings show that the use of a military-style approach fails to address the most fundamental issues, such as poor economic conditions, increased youth unemployment, and illiteracy which drive people into illegal ASM. Moreover, government forces are not immune to corruption. We argue that a military-style approach is not a sustainable solution to the illegal ASM ‘menace’ in Ghana. Therefore, we recommend the development and implementation of a comprehensive rural development plan that addresses dimensions of poverty, such as youth unemployment, rural illiteracy, and joblessness.

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Resources Policy, v. 68, art. 101732