For years, Ghana has struggled to address the problems of land degradation, water pollution, and destruction of farmlands resulting from illegal small-scale gold and diamond mining popularly known as “galamsey.” After short-lived efforts under the previous government, the Nana Akufo-Addo administration classified “galamsey” as a major challenge to the country and imposed a six-month ban early this year. The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources followed with a 21-day ultimatum to all ”galamseyers” to cease operations and surrender their equipment.
The government also launched a Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) aimed at enacting more stringent mining regulations and improving enforcement of mining laws, including the use of drones and other monitoring technology (Ghana Business News, 2017). Around the same time, then-Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Woode designated 14 courts to handle “galamsey” cases, Vice President Mahamadu Bawumia announced the suspension of issuance of licenses for small-scale mining, and a number of Ghanaians and foreigners were arrested on suspicion of illegal mining by a ministerial task force (CitiFMonline, 2017).
A Media Coalition Against Galemsey formed to support the government’s efforts (Ghana Star, 2017a) and collaborated with the public-interest group Occupy Ghana to organize a National Red Friday crusade to rally citizens (Ghana Star, 2017b). It is estimated that about 1 million people (nationals, other West Africans, and Chinese) are involved in illegal small-scale mining (some diamond mining but mostly gold) in Ghana, each earning on average between US$100 and US$300 per month (Phys Org, 2017).
Afrobarometer’s latest national survey in Ghana shows that most Ghanaians support efforts to wipe out illegal small-scale mining and approve of the government’s performance on this issue. But they also overwhelmingly support the government’s proposed initiatives to develop alternative livelihoods for those affected by an end to “galamsey.”