Defying the gloom: In search of the ‘golden’ practices of small-scale mining operations

Abstract

Dominant narratives on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) often portray mining regions as ‘informal’ zones that suffer massively from environmental degradation problems. Such insistence on the poor environmental performance of ASM zones has dovetailed with a lack of scholarly attention to some of the ‘golden’ environmental management practices taking place in some of these mining areas. In this paper, we explore how the operations of a formalised (registered) small-scale mining operator in Ghana, as objectified in its obligatory and ethical functions, contribute to reducing pollution and mine-degraded landscapes, which have long been viewed as the inevitable consequence of ASM. Emphasizing how the dynamic interplay between resources and environmental demands may come to support public policy, our study shows how mutually constituting demands on mining in highly differentiated contexts could translate into productive outcomes. Contrary to the popular perception that ASM operators are not good stewards of the environment, findings from our study suggest that these operators can be caretakers of the environment and local communities through land reclamation mechanisms. Localisation of labour could, however, contribute to more sustainable livelihoods in mining communities and help curb rising community tensions

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