Due to the organisational logics and structures within artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing – being male-dominated, women's health and safety concerns are poorly understood and not given the needed practical and policy considerations. This paper draws on field observations and interviews with 49 women directly engaged in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Prestea-Bondaye mining area in Ghana to explore the safety concerns of women in the ASM sector and their exposure to occupational health risks at the informal ASM sites. Lack of regulations and guidelines regarding safety protocols at mine sites, non-usage of personal protective equipment, odd working hours and poor physical conditions were found to be the primary occupational health and safety (OHS) concerns of women in ASM. Other findings, including the creation of risky and dangerous pits within the abandoned open mine pits of large-scale mining companies, carrying of mineralised materials in head pans, and the lack of childcare support at ASM sites, also exposed women to various occupational health and safety risks. We argue that women's health and safety needs in ASM stand to benefit when ASM operations are formalised as well as the gendered structures that influence sex roles and decision-making at mine sites are transformed. We call for a practical decentralised approach that builds on collaboration between relevant local institutions to conduct regular monitoring at ASM sites and to ensure ASM employers comply with OHS regulations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research. This work was supported by the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) and St Antony's College, University of Oxford through departmental fieldwork award and STAR Grant award respectively. The sponsors, however, played no role in the study design, data collection and data analysis, manuscript preparation, and publication of this article. This research was from first author's (FA-H) MPhil fieldwork in Ghana and was supervised by Professor Cheryl Doss.
- Gendered Organisation
- Occupational health and safety (OHS)
- Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
- Sub-Saharan Africa