How Satellite Data Can Fight Illegal Mining in Ghana

Ghana was called the Gold Coast for a very specific reason. The West African country’s hills and rivers are flush with the precious metal. This has lured international mineral extraction companies to the region and inspired generations of Ghanians to mine their own land for the precious metal.

For most of the country’s history, mining activities involved people using handheld tools to pan, dig and mine tiny claims to suppliment their income. It used to be that people would just dig behind the house. It was not too degrading, says Michael Ali, Director of Mining for the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana. But in the early 2000s this began to change when a large fleet of excavators were imported from China, he says. What was once small scale artisanal mining transformed into large, and largely unregulated mining activities.

Rapid environmental degradation followed. Excavators leveled mountains and lush forests were felled. Rivers were diverted and the soil and water contaminated. The problem got so bad that in 2017 the government issued a ban on all mining in parts of the country. It was only earlier this year that the government began to slowly start re-issuing permits and mining concessions to companies that could meet certain environmental standards. This includes having company pay bonds to guarantee the replanting trees and crops after mining operations cease. But despite the ban, unregulated strip mining is continuing at an alarming pace.

Source: UN Dispatch