Sustainning Livelihoods in the Mining Communities of the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality


The termination of mining activities resulting from the exhaustion of mineral resources usually kill the local economies of mining communities and ultimately impoverish the inhabitants of the affected communities. Underpinned by this, sustainable livelihoods in artisanal small-scale mining communities has assumed prominence in international and national discourses. The purpose of this study was to explore ways of sustaining livelihoods in the artisanal small-scale mining communities within the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality (TNM).


The study used complementary data from secondary and primary sources to answer the research questions. The secondary data obtained from scholarly works such as peer-reviewed journals and conferences, books and unpublished documents provided the theoretical and conceptual frameworks for the concept of sustainable livelihoods which underpinned the subject of investigation. The primary data were obtained from a sample of 400 household heads, 19 institutions, six Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) firms (four unlicensed and two licensed) and two mineral processing companies all from the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality. The other sources of primary data were two local gold buying agents, traditional authorities and workers of the ASM firms.


Analyses of the data revealed that 50.50 percent of the household heads covered in the survey were miners with only 25 percent of them employed in the Large Scale Mining (LSM) firms. The remaining 75 percent of the miners were engaged by ASM firms operating within the mining communities. The dominance of the ASM activities was partly explained by the lack of the requisite skills on the part of the ASM workers to be engaged by the LSM companies coupled with the ease of entry into the ASM sector. The miners were the highest income earners in the communities; earning an average of GH¢195.55 per month which was 14.8 percent higher than the average monthly income of GH¢170. The relatively high turnover from the ASM activities also offers an explanation for the dominance of the mining activities in the municipality. The study also identified that the mining chain, from extraction through processing to sale, is a major source of livelihood to the labour force of the mining communities.


Despite the high returns from the mining activities, access to land for other economic activities which could have sustained households‘ livelihoods has been difficult. Lands have also been rendered unproductive due to the inability of the dominant ASM firms to reclaim the lands after mining. The large concessions operated on by the LSM firms have contributed to making access to land difficult. Furthermore, the ASM do not offer workers any protective clothings and insurance. The workers‘ exposure to cyanide and mercury makes them vulnerable to all manner of health risks which is a threat to the sustenance of livelihoods. Owing to the unsustainable nature of the mining activities, 69.2 percent of the miners have invested their incomes in other income generating activities such as farming (53.1 percent), trading (45.1 percent) and fishing (1.8 percent).


Following the challenges, the study recommended that the desire of the miners for more sustainable sources of livelihoods should be supported with skills development programmes and the creation of opportunities for continued education with the objective of building the human capital base of the ASM communities. Other policy measures which could engender sustainable livelihoods in the ASM communities include the modernisation of agriculture, promotion of local level partnership and participation of local leaders in the management of ASM to promote self-regulation and enhance enforcement of small scale mining laws and regulations.



Theresa Yaaba Baah-Ennumh (Mrs)

(MSc. Development Policy and Planning)

Lecturer, Department of Planning, KNUST.
Mob: 233-20-244977414 / 233-209131169,

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