Title: Intersecting worlds: small-scale/industrial gold-mining, miner migration, and knowledge transfer
Authors and Affiliations: Elisha Renne1
1Department of Anthropology; Department of African and Afro-American Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
Abstract: The paper examines migration patterns of gold-miners from the Upper East Region, Ghana, to and from goldmines in the area around Obuasi in the Ashanti Region, in southern Ghana. Historically, men travelled south for employment in industrial goldmines such as AngloGold Ashanti (formerly Ashanti Goldfields Corporation), with some settling in the south while others—some of whom had been laid off from work in industrial mines—returned to the northeast. This north-south-north pattern of migration has continued to the present day. When the rising price of gold led these returnees to search for gold in places such as Nangodi, in Nabdam District (where gold had been mined in the 1930s), returnees from southern industrial gold mines used their experience—and taught local men—to identify rock with traces of gold that were suitable for small-scale mining extraction. This expertise spread to other men in neighboring communities in Talensi District, such as those working in mining concessions such as Kejetia and World Bank. In this paper, I consider the consequences of these connections for gold-mining practices, miners’ health, and the environment, based on interviews with small-scale miners born in the UER, who have worked in industrial mines in and near Obuasi, and who either returned to work in small-scale mining in Talensi and Nabdam Districts, or who stayed on (or returned) to carry out small-scale mining near Obuasi. That miners learned certain gold-mining practices while working in industrial gold mines raises questions about other gold-mining related practices pertaining to miner health and safety as well as water use, which they may have also acquired. Whether these small-scale miners subsequently have applied this health and environmental/water knowledge is unclear. Yet these connections suggest a possible avenue for applying their experience and expertise to other aspects of small-scale gold-mining.