Structural Adjustment and Subsistence Industry: Artisanal Gold Mining in Ghana


  • Gavin Hilson,

    1. Lecturer in Environmental Planning at the School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University (Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3WA, Wales, UK), and a Research Associate at the ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS), Cardiff University.
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  • Clive Potter

    1. Reader in Environmental Policy at Imperial College, London (South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK).
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Since the implementation of Ghana's national Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), policies associated with the programme have been criticized for perpetuating poverty within the country's subsistence economy. This article brings new evidence to bear on the contention that the SAP has both fuelled the uncontrolled growth of informal, poverty-driven artisanal gold mining and further marginalized its impoverished participants. Throughout the adjustment period, it has been a central goal of the government to promote the expansion of large-scale gold mining through foreign investment. Confronted with the challenge of resuscitating a deteriorating gold mining industry, the government introduced a number of tax breaks and policies in an effort to create an attractive investment climate for foreign multinational mining companies. The rapid rise in exploration and excavation activities that has since taken place has displaced thousands of previously-undisturbed subsistence artisanal gold miners. This, along with a laissez faire land concession allocation procedure, has exacerbated conflicts between mining parties. Despite legalizing small-scale mining in 1989, the Ghanaian government continues to implement procedurally complex and bureaucratically unwieldy regulations and policies for artisanal operators which have the effect of favouring the interests of established large-scale miners.