Artisanal and Small Scale Mining and Impact of Chemicals in Gold Recovery: Can Improved Technology be the Game-Changer?


Contribution of Artisanal Small-scale Mining 

The gold mining sector for decades have made significant contributions to the economy of Ghana. The sector is the highest export earner for the country with a total of US$ 6.6 billion export earnings in 2022. Whilst large scale mining contributes the larger share in gold production, the contributions of the Artisanal and Small scale Gold mining (ASGM) sector in the country’s economy cannot be downplayed. Contribution of the ASGM sector to the national gold production has increased steadily from 2.2% to 43% between 1989 and 2021. The sector’s economic linkages are clearly demonstrated in its contribution to foreign exchange earnings and household incomes for the over 1 million people directly employed and the additional 4 million people that indirectly depend on the sector for their livelihoods. 

Despite these positives, the sector continues to receive negative reportage in literature and the media landscape, noted notoriously for negative social, economic, health and environmental impacts. The environmental and social problems caused by ASGM activities are dotted across the country impacting the lives of those directly involved in mining, those living in communities near mining sites and those who are not directly connected with ASGM. Illegal mining activities “galamsey” have reached unprecedented proportions causing havoc to cocoa and food production due to soil degradation and the destruction of cocoa and other arable farmlands; polluting rivers and water bodies which are main sources of drinking water for the country; and creating negative health problems as a result of the uncontrolled use of mercury, cyanide and other chemicals. 

Making the Difference: The Role of Technology

Notwithstanding these challenges, ASGM is a lucrative venture and still holds the promise of driving local economic development and transformation. The Africa Mining Vision (AMV) points to the “the potential of ASM to improve rural livelihoods, to stimulate entrepreneurship in a socially-responsible manner, and to promote local and integrated national development as well as regional cooperation”. 

For ASGM to be a driver of rural transformation and promote local and integrated national development, would require the adoption and usage of the right modern technologies that foster efficient, safe and sustainable mining practices towards the achievement of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Currently, ASGM activities are mainly undertaken with rudimentary locally improvised and inefficient equipment and tools due to low capital investment in the sector. This has accounted for the negative environmental impacts, informality, low mineral recovery, inefficiency and poor occupational health and safety safeguards. 

Today, efficient and effective environmentally friendly technologies have become an integral part of mining operations that as a country it is either we adapt these technologies and innovations or ‘die’ from the negative impact of illegal, unsustainable and irresponsible ASGM practices. New technology and operating techniques have demonstrated the possibility of deriving more value from limited deposits. For instance, the introduction of the mercury-free rock processing technology has proven to be very efficient and environmentally friendly with high tonnes per hour processing and high gold recovery without the use of mercury.

Evidence abounds across the world that with the right technologies ASGM can be done in a more efficient, sustainable and responsible manner. Efforts to formalise and sanitise the ASGM sector in the country cannot be successful without a proper conversation, knowledge-sharing and collaboration among industry players towards the development of a clear policy framework that: promotes the adaption of clean mining technologies in the ASM sector; encourage financial and capital investments in ASM; ensure the reorientation, capacity building and training of ASM operators to adopt clean mining technologies; and supports local industrialisation in the production of mining inputs and technologies.  

Goals and Objectives 

It is against the foregoing background that Commodity Monitor Ltd is organising ASM stakeholder workshops across all mining districts to facilitate a multi sectorial and interdisciplinary discourse, dialogue and sharing of knowledge, ideas and experiences on how existing and new technologies and innovations can be leveraged to formalise and sanitise the artisanal and small scale mining sector in a way that satisfy responsible mining principles and practices.

The workshop also focuses on how artisanal small scale mining operators can be provided with the necessary financial and technical assistance to adopt efficient and clean mining technologies that not only improve gold productivity but also minimise or at best eradicate the negative environmental impact of their activities. Specifically, the workshop seeks to: 

  1. Create awareness on the health impact of chemicals used in gold recovery. 
  2. Highlight the importance of early stage prospecting and exploration in the ASGM sector.
  3. Demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of the ‘GoldKacha’ Mercury-free technology to improve gold recovery by artisanal and small scale miners.
  4. Identify and recommend possible ways that can facilitate and create opportunities for artisanal and small scale miners to get access to clean mining processing technologies. 


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The production, processing, and trading of commodities through global value chains connect actors from developed, developing, and emerging countries.

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