Addressing illegal mining sustainably and equitably in Ghana

Australia Awards Alumnus Richard Ellimah successfully completed a Short Course in Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives at the University of Queensland in 2015. He is currently an Executive Director at the Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), where he is working on the movement and relocation of illegal miners from AngloGold Ashanti’s concession.

Richard says that during his stay in Australia and Madagascar, he gained exceptional insights into how mining could be used to promote local economic development. “In Australia, I saw how the mining industry was used as a catalyst to develop other downstream industries. It was a classic case study for me. The other extreme was the situation in Madagascar where the mining industry had virtually taken over the institutional governance of entire districts. Between these two, I was able to learn how best to position Ghana’s mining industry to enable it to support a strong local economy.”

For a long time, Ghana has been grappling with the challenge of illegal mining, which has become an economic justice issue. In the past, multinational mining companies were given very large concessions to undertake mining operations. These concessions were so big that they covered more than one administrative district. “Essentially, within these administrative districts, only one company may be licensed to do mining, leaving thousands of youths from the communities without access to any legal concession. In more recent times, the problem has been characterised by the invasion of these large-scale mines by illegal miners. One of the reasons for the invasion of these large-scale mines is the fact that illegal miners do not have access to alternative mineral concessions. Currently, there is no model to promote the mutual existence of small-scale miners and large-scale operators, says Richard.

In response to appeals for an alternative concession, AngloGold Ashanti released 60% of its concession to the Government of Ghana in line with the provisions of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703). The Government then set up a Movement/Relocation Committee in which Richard was involved to draw a road map that would eventually see the gradual relocation of illegal miners on AngloGold Ashanti’s ceded concession. Richard served on the Committee as a representative of the Obuasi Municipal Assembly, and was also appointed as the Spokesperson, where he dealt with the media, explaining the work of the Committee to the public, and building the needed confidence in the process.

“This initiative is very important as it will provide a model that other mining districts can use to remove illegal miners operating on the concessions of large-scale mining companies. More importantly, the success of this Movement/Relocation Committee provides a major breakthrough in efforts to sustainably address the problem of illegal mining across the country.”

Richard says that the initiative benefits an estimated 3,000 illegal miners currently operating on AngloGold Ashanti’s concession. When they are fully moved, they will form cooperatives and have titles to their own concession. By extension, communities where these illegal miners will be relocated will also have extra revenue to enable them to boost the local economy.

So far, the Committee has succeeded in preparing four different mine sites to receive these illegal miners, who would be moved from AngloGold Ashanti’s concession. Excavation works have been done, exposing the ore body that they can use and paving the way for a brighter economic future.


Richard lives with a mobility impairment. He has paralysis of the right leg as a result of polio, and walks with a limp, but says he completed his Short Course successfully due to the support received while on-Award.

“One of my biggest worries was how I was going to be supported while on the program, but I was amazed that, right from the time I was accepted, Australia Awards contacted me and made the necessary arrangements to make my life in both Australia and Madagascar comfortable. In the field, I was supported with special transport arrangements so that I did not have to walk long distances. In fact, Australia Awards lived up to its core value of ensuring equal opportunities for all persons, irrespective of their ability.”

Australia Awards – Africa follows a human rights model to disability inclusion, which states that persons with a disability have the right to participate in and access all opportunities in their society, like others. For more information, go to: http://awardslocal.local/about-australian-awards/information-for-people-with-disability/.

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