Ghana recorded a total output of 3.7m ounces of gold at the end of 2022 – a 32% increase on the previous year – putting the country back in the top spot as Africa’s biggest gold producer after losing out to South Africa in 2021.
“A combination of fresh output and expansion of production at existing large-scale mines drove the large-scale sector’s contribution to national gold output from 2.7m ounces in 2021 to 3.1m ounces in 2022, representing an increment of 13%,” said Joshua Mortoti, president of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, at the 2023 annual general meeting.
This news does not mean anything to me. It does not reflect in my pocket.
Smaller mining outfits accounted for the rest of the production.
“This news does not mean anything to me,” says Kwame Appiah, a cocoa farmer at Kwabeng in the Eastern region. “It does not reflect in my pocket. Looking at what happened to me, I can imagine that the loss of livelihood of many farmers is what has resulted in this feat,” he says.
Appiah lost a portion of his cocoa farm to small-scale gold miners in 2019. The miners encroached upon the land when he refused to sell it off to them months earlier. He was later given ¢10,000 ($880) as compensation, which he said was inadequate since the farm was his only source of livelihood.
Mining communities are some of the poorest in Ghana. Socio-economic challenges that afflict the country – such as high unemployment rates, underdeveloped infrastructure and the lack of access to potable water – are exacerbated in mining communities, due to mass land acquisitions, environmental degradation and pollution. There are already threats of Ghana importing water in the future should pollution from mining continue without check.
“We in the community continue to be impoverished by the increasing gold mining and our water bodies too destroyed… After losing my farm, things became so difficult so I had to get involve [in illegal mining] at a point,” says Appiah.
Mining communities in Ghana are due various forms of compensation for relocation and loss of farms as lump sum cash payments, housing provisions, community schools, public healthcare and water projects – but a lot of this is inadequate, says Robert Ali Tanti, executive director of Center for Social Impact Studies.
“Most of them do not receive adequate compensation. Those who are resettled are not largely satisfied. In our recent research most of them said they were better off in their previous places of abode than new places of settlement,” he says.
This dissatisfaction is listed among the reasons for violent clashes between host communities and mining companies. At Obuasi in the Ashanti Region where AngloGold Ashanti has been mining since 1897, hundreds of young people targeted the company in a protest last year over lack of jobs and poor infrastructure.
Emmanuel Kofi Ayamga, who led that protest, says that nothing has changed. “In Obuasi, mining is actively ongoing, but we the people don’t get any benefits from it. They have destroyed our water bodies and even our roads are in a poor state because of the heavy trucks using it.”
Until Ghana’s mining laws are changed to limit profit repatriation, no true benefits will accrue to host communities, Daniel Owusu – Koranteng, the executive director of Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACCAM) believes.
“The whole thing is a hoax. It doesn’t mean anything to us. We need to interrogate what benefit this had on us. If you look at the destruction that go on, displacement of farming communities [with farming contributing 19% to GDP], there’s nothing to celebrate about this,” he says.
“We must look at our laws and how earnings from mining are retained in the country. If we are first and companies involved in mining can retain all their earnings in foreign accounts then what is the purpose?” he says.
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