Accepted paper:

Whose sustainability? Diverging visions on sustainability in Ghana´s artisanal and small scale gold mining sector


Robert Pijpers (University of Hamburg)

Paper short abstract:

In Ghana´s artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector, environmental impact is a key issue in (un)sustainability debates. This paper focuses on this debate, connecting it to human mobility and technology as well as bringing home some diverging local interpretations of sustainability.

Paper long abstract:

Similar to discourse around artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) elsewhere, Ghana´s ASGM sector is generally regarded as a detriment to the environment and, despite its economic contribution and development potentiality, inherently unsustainable. In this paper I, first of all, trace the rise of the most recent sustainability debate in Ghana. This debate informed a nation-wide ´war on galamsey´ (war on artisanal and small-scale mining) which included a ban on all ASGM activity and generated significant negative attention for artisanal and small-scale miners. While this ´war´ was driven by the environmental pollution caused by ASGM, it is also connected to processes of human mobility and technological innovation, mainly related to Chinese presence. This connection signals that in addition to environmental impact, other dynamics may be relevant to sustainably debates. Consequently, without disregarding the serious problems that ASGM causes in terms of environmental impact, the second part of the paper shows that a narrative exclusively focused on the environment does not suffice to fully understand the diverging understandings of sustainability among different ASGM actors. By highlighting several of these diverging visions on sustainability, the paper stresses the importance of taking a bottom-up approach in order to understand what sustainability means and to whom and to eventually achieve a more sustainable ASGM sector.

panel C07
Questioning the (un)sustainability of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining