Recognizing and nurturing artisanal mining as a viable livelihood

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Much of the discourse and literature on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in sub-Saharan Africa has inherently prescriptive recommendations on how the sector should develop. Devaluation, misrecognition, and criminalization of artisanal, largely illegal miners hamper their participation not only in environmental and political decision-making but also in negotiating potential alternative livelihoods. This article addresses the following three questions: (a) what are the pull and push factors in Ghana's artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector?; (b) what concrete livelihood options exist for unregistered miners when regularization is impeded and undermined?; and (c) in the absence of promising alternative livelihoods, how can the ASM sector be re-imagined to allow poor men and women miners to flourish as recognized and valued members of their society? The findings suggest that as long as currently illegal miners have some expectation that they will legitimately acquire even small parcels of land for gold extraction, they are very unlikely to commit to any of the fashionable, yet short-lived alternative livelihood options that are introduced by external agencies. What Ghana's ASM sector needs is more success stories that demonstrate that small operators can and want to be good environmental stewards, and that they can flourish as recognized and valued citizens. ?? 2008.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-31
Number of pages8
JournalResources Policy
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


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