Galamsey / 2018
a collaborative project with Michael O’Hara and Rob G. Green

    There has been a gold trade in Ghana for as long as people have wanted to mine it. And for almost as long there has been finger pointing trying to determine out who’s causing the problems that go along with it. Galamsey simply refers to  small scale illegal mining practices that literally means “gather and sell.” It’s just that the gathering and selling is what’s causing the problem.

    Ghana is Africa’s largest gold producer after South Africa, but with a fraction of the regulation. As such there is little mandate for land reclamation or environmental protection. Foreign companies characteristically lease land from farmers or tribal chiefs, mine until a site is exhausted, and move to a new location. During excavation, heavy metals used in ore extraction like cyanide, mercury, and chromium are discarded along with waste sediment into nearby waterways headed toward treatment facilities unequipped to deal with them.

    With cropland and forests damaged by unsustainable mining practices, farmers unable to plant seed often turn to the spent mine pits in hopes of extracting what little precious ore or diamonds that may have previously been undiscovered. Typically poor and undereducated, many miners work in the shadows and endure governmental pressure, dangerous conditions, and heavy metal poisoning to seek gold they may ultimately never find.