Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has proliferated worldwide due to powerful economic forces and widespread poverty. Globally, an estimated 20 million people are directly engaged in ASGM, and an estimated 100 million depend on ASGM for their livelihoods. ASGM can provide significant economic benefits to miners and their communities, particularly in rural areas, where viable alternative livelihoods are scarce. However, emerging research suggests that ASGM can also ravage landscapes, contaminate aquatic resources, and contribute mercury to the environment. The total environmental and health burden of ASGM in communities is unknown, and the complex interactions influencing this burden, which span public health, social, political, economic, and ecological domains, are not well understood.
Over the past several years, researchers from Ghana and abroad have come together to analyze economic, social, environmental, and public health data using the Integrated Assessment (IA) framework to address the following overarching, policy-relevant question: What are the causes, consequences, and correctives of small-scale gold mining in Ghana? More specifically: What alternatives are available in resource-limited settings in Ghana that allow for gold-mining to occur in a manner that maintains ecological health and human health without hindering near- and long-term economic prosperity? The outcome of this activity is pertinent not only to Ghana, but also to dozens of other low- and middle-income countries grappling with the challenges posed by artisanal and small-scale gold mining. In addition, the findings from this endeavor will help inform Ghana and the other countries who will become parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which has a dedicated article concerning the ASGM sector.
The integrated assessment was conducted by three technical work groups (natural sciences, human health, and social sciences and economics) comprising mainly Ghanaian researchers hailing from academia, government, and NGOs, as well as several partners from North America. Each work group was advised by independent, international experts, and a project manager and two principal investigators oversaw the entire project. The Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan provided funding for the integrated assessment. Please see our Researchers and Partners page to learn more about our team.