This paper aims to examine methods of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Ghana, map their perceived impacts on water resources, and analyse the implications of these perceptions for meeting the targets related to Clean Water of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6). The paper draws on 74 interviews with artisanal and small-scale gold miners and other stakeholders to investigate communities’ perceptions of the effects of ASM methods (alluvial mining, surface/open-pit mining, and underground mining) on water bodies. We find that different ASM methods impact surface and groundwater in distinct ways while concurrently having a synergistic negative effect on water bodies. Stakeholders – including community leaders – perceive that the mining methods employed in ASM cause various forms of environmental degradation – thus affecting progress towards SDG 6, target 6.3 (water quality) – and severely hinder the availability of clean water for domestic and agricultural purposes, thus endangering the livelihoods of communities and affecting progress towards SDG 6, target 6.4 (sustainable water use). The community perceived impacts of ASM activities on water resources have implications for community acceptance of formalisation efforts in Ghana. We contend that a better understanding of these perceived impacts can help shape the country’s policy for achieving the targets of SDG 6 in relation to Clean Water by 2030. In particular, we propose that the integration of the Community Mining Scheme as part of formalisation efforts of informal gold mining in Ghana not only responds to SDG 6 target 6b (participation of local communities in water management) but also has the potential to reverse the current large-scale mining ‘bias’ in policy, while addressing the galamsey challenge that contributes to the increasing impact of informal gold mining on SDG 6, targets 6.3 and 6.4.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank the research assistants for their role in the data collection during the field work. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editor for providing constructive feedback on previous drafts. Funding for the earlier research was provided by the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) and St Antony’s College, University of Oxford through departmental fieldwork award and STAR Grant, respectively.
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- Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
- Water resources
- Sustainable Development Goal 6
- Mercury contamination
- Environmental degradation
- Mining methods