Document Type: Case Study


1 Gold Fields Ghana Limited, Environmental Department, Tarkwa-Ghana

2 Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Civil Department, Kumasi-Ghana

3 Ghana Minerals Commission, Accra-Ghana


The uncontrolled spread of illegal artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASM), popularly termed “galamsey” in Ghana, has, for decades, impacted adversely upon water bodies, soils, wildlife, human health, and safety. A lack of understanding, however, of the types of galamsey, their operational attributes, and their relative impacts has unfortunately hindered an effective policy response despite numerous calls from civic societal groups to address this menace.
This paper is part of a comprehensive study in 11 selected municipal and district assemblies of the Western Region of Ghana to help provide an in-depth understanding into the galamsey operations in Ghana. It discusses the various forms of galamsey, their operational attributes, and relative environmental impacts.
Through extensive literature review, site visits, and task observations, five broad categories and 11 sub-groupings of galamsey were unearthed based on the gold deposit type, resources used, origin of technology used, mining, and processing style as well as the local names given. These include (1) Placer/alluvial galamsey (“dig and wash”, “washing plant”, “washing board”, “anwona”, dredging, and panning), (2) Underground galamsey (abandoned underground shafts and “sample pit”), (3) Surface (“chamfi”) galamsey, (4) Mill-House galamsey, and (5) Selection galamsey. Whilst the underground and selection galamsey involve ore mining only, the mill-house focuses exclusively on ore processing. The alluvial and surface galamsey, however, involve simultaneous mining and ore processing activities.
The information presented in this paper could prove valuable to policy formulation efforts, design, and implementation of effective wasteland remediation programs by governments, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders in hard-hit regions with similar illegal gold mining dilemma.


[1]. Ghana Mining Summit. (2015). (accessed on 8th May 2015).

[2]. Top 10 gold producing countries in the world, November 2015. (accessed on February 20th 2016).

[3]. Top 10 gold producing countries with largest gold reserves in the world, October 9 2015. (accessed on February 20th 2016).

[4]. Kessey, K.D. and Arko, B. (2013). Small scale gold mining and environmental degradation, in Ghana: issues of mining policy implementation and challenges. Journal of Studies in Social Sciences. 5 (1): 12-30.

[5]. Alhassan, I.A. (2014). Galamsey and the Making of a Deep State in Ghana: Implications for National Security and Development.

[6]. Essabra-Mensah, E. (2014). Illegal mining killing cocoa farms; (accessed on 6th January 2015).

[7]. Aubynn, A. (2009). Sustainable solution or a marriage of inconvenience? The coexistence of large-scale mining and artisanal and small-scale mining on the Abosso Goldfields concession in Western Ghana. Resources Policy. 34 (1): 64-70.

[8]. Kunateh M.A. (2012). Hammah calls for attitude change to stamp out galamsey.

[9]. Ghanamma. (2013). Support Government To Eradicate Galamsey. Published On: Mon, May 13th, 2013.

 [10]. Cobbina, J.N.Y. (2013). Eradicating Galamsey Is The Responsibility Of All– Minister. (Accessed on Nov 19, 2013).

[11]. ASM Africa-Network (ASMAN). (2015). In Ghana Want A Dedicated Ministry, By News Ghana - Feb 22, 2015. Nii Adjetey-Kofi Mensah, Executive Director? ASMAN.

[12]. Hinton, J. and Hollestelle, M.R. (2012). Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in and around protected areas and critical Ecosystems Project. Methodological toolkit for baseline assessment and response strategies to artisanal and small-scale mining in protected areas and critical ecosystems.

[13]. Resende, R.J.T.P., Alves, H.M.R., Andrade, H., Rebelatto, A. and Resteves, D. (2000). Environmental characterization and land use development in the Ribeirão Vermelho watershed in Lavras-Mg, Brazil. International Archives of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Vol. XXXIII, Part B7. Amsterdam.

[14]. United States EPA. (2000). Abandoned Mine Site Characterization and Cleanup Handbook. EPA 910-B-00-001. Region 8 Region 9 Region 10. EPA 910-B-00-001 Denver, CO San Francisco, CA Seattle, WA.

[15]. Banchirigah, S.M. (2008). Challenges with eradicating illegal mining in Ghana: A perspective from the grassroots'. Resources Policy. 33 (1): 29-38.

[16]. Hilson, G. and Maponga, O. (2004). How has a shortage of census and geological data impeded the regularization of artisanal and small-scale mining?. Nat. Resour. Forum. 28: 22-33.

[17]. Collins, N. and Lawson, L. (2014). Investigating Approaches to Working with Artisanal and Small-scale Miners: A Compendium of Strategies and Reports from the Field.

[18]. Aryee, B.N.A., Ntibery, B.K. and Atorkui, E. (2003). Trends in the small-scale mining of precious minerals in Ghana: a perspective on its environmental impact. Journal of Cleaner Production. 11: 131-140.

[19]. Wikipedia, 2015. Galamsey. (accessed on 4th Novembers 2015).

[20]. GEF (Global Environment Facility). (2002). UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization): Global Mercury Project: Project Inception Document: Removal of Barriers to the Introduction of Cleaner Artisanal Mining and Extraction Technologies. Washington DC: Global Environment Facility.

[21]. Resende, R.J.T.P, Alves, H.M.R., Andrade, H., Rebelatto, A. and Resteves, D. (2000). Environmental characterization and land use development in the Ribeirão Vermelho watershed in Lavras-Mg, Brazil. International Archives of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Vol. XXXIII, Part B7. Amsterdam.

[22]. Ishaq Akmey A. (2014). Galamsey and the Making of a Deep State in Ghana: Implications for National Security and Development. Research on Humanities and Social. 4 (16): 47-57.

[23]. Emmanuel, Opoku. (2013). 'Galamsey' A Canker in Western Region.

[24]. The Daily Guide, “Foreign Galamsey Operators Arrested”. Available online: (accessed on 22 October 2014).

[25]. Owusu, E.E. and Dwomoh, G. (2012). The impact of illegal mining on the Ghanaian youth: evidence from Kwaebibirem district In Ghana. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences. 2 (6): 86-93.

[26]. Ghana Business. (2014). Galamsey– The good, the bad and the ugly; (accessed on 22nd October 2014).

[27]. Richard Owusu-Akyaw. (2014). Anti-Galamsey Task Force Impounds 15 Excavators … As Aga Seeks Regsec’s Protection. (accessed on 20th October 2014).

[28]. Ghana Armed Forces. (2014). Presidential Task Force Flush Out “Galamsey”

[29]. GEF/UNDP/UNIDO. (2006). Manual for Training Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Miners/Veiga, M.M. et al./Vienna, Austria: GEF/UNDP/UNIDO, 2006, 144 P.  

[30]. Andrew, J.S. (2003). Potential application of mediation to land use conflicts in small-scale mining. Journal of Cleaner Production. 11 ( 2): 117-130.

[31]. Chaparro Ávila, E. (2003). Small-scale mining: a new entrepreneurial approach, Comisión Económica para América Latina (CEPAL), United Nations, Santiago.

[32]. ICMM. (2009). ICMM workshop on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) and Mining Companies, Coconut Grove Resort, Elmina, Ghana.

[33]. CASM/ICMM/IFM CommDev. (2009). Working together: How large-scale mining can engage with artisanal and small-scale miners.

[34]. Villegas, C., Weinberg, R., Levin, E. and Hund, K. (2012). Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in Protected areas and critical Ecosystems Programme (ASM -PACE). Working Together Towards Responsible Artisanal And Small Scale Mining-A Global Solutions Study.

[35]. Hartman, H.L. (1992). SME Mining Engineering Handbook, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc.

[36]. Carl, W. (2012). Gold and gold mining - Methods of mining, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

[37]. Wikipedia. (2015). Gold Mining. (accessed on December 10th 2015).

[38]. Ghana Chamber of Mines. (2014). Performance of the mining industry in 2013. Ghana Chamber of Mines. (accessed on 13th November 2015).

[39]. Weber-Fahr, M., Strongman, J., Kunanayagam, R., McMahon and Sheldon, C. (2001). Mining and Poverty Reduction, ( 0409.pdf 5 June 2003).

[40]. Teschner, B. and Aidoo, A. (2012). Galamsey and Small-scale Mining Activities at Goldfields’ Ghana Projects; Engaging with a semin-formal industry.

[41]. The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). (2014). Districts analytical reports. Population and housing census, 2010. (accessed on 10th February 2016).

[42]. Ghana Minerals Commission. (2014). (accessed on December 12th 2014).

[43]. Kesse, G.O. (1985). The Mineral and Rock Resources of Ghana.  Published by A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam/Boston. 610 P.

[44]. Leube, A., Hirdes, W. and Mauer, R. (1986). The Birimian Supergroup of Ghana: Depositional Environment, Structural Development and Conceptual Model of an Early Proterozoic Suite.  Technical Cooperation Project No. 80.2040.6: Ghanaian-German Mineral Prospecting Project.

[45]. Gold Rush Nuggets. (2016). How a Gold Trommel Works. (accessed on 12th January 2016).

[46]. Gold Rush Trading Post, 2016. (accessed on 12th January 2016).

[47]. Montana Gold Trommels- C&S Sales. (2014). (accessed on 12th December 2015).

[48]. Amegbey, N.A. and Eshun, P.A. (2003). Mercury use and occupational exposure in the Ghanaian small-scale gold mining industry. Ghana Mining Journal. 7: 54-61.

[49]. Asare Boadu's Stories. (2009). 'Galamsey' destroys environment in WR (PAGE 20). (accessed on 15th November 2015).

[50]. Hilson, G. (2001). A Contextual Review of the Ghanaian Small-scale Mining Industry, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), London <>.