Contaminated identities: Mercury and marginalization in Ghana's artisanal mining sector

Petra Tschakert, Kamini Singha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides a counter-narrative to the dominant discourse of marginalization and criminalization of Ghana's illegal gold miners (galamsey) by focusing on the contested mercury debate. We first examine the complex and multifaceted policy problem that underlies the current conflictual aspects in the small-scale mining sector, arguing that mercury use and contamination are key elements in the antigalamsey rhetoric. Second, we describe an interdisciplinary pilot study on human and environmental health that involved health personnel and illegal miners from two sites. Through participatory ranking and mapping activities, we explored participants' understanding of mercury and other life hazards as well as causes and consequences of mercury contamination. We used chemical indicator strips to sample contaminated areas in collaboration with the miners. By drawing upon novel concepts from the environmental justice and ecohealth literature, we propose a political ecology of human and environmental health that advocates recognition of galamsey operators and their participation in learning opportunities as a first step out of the current impasse in the Ghanaian small-scale mining sector. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1304-1321
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


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