Scholarly Papers Series - 2

Land-based Resource Alienation and Local Responses under Structural Adjustment
Reflections from Western Ghana

Anthony Kwesi. Aubynn
Institute of Development Studies Helsinki

Introduction of central issues

Ghana is one of the few countries in Africa which has been vaunted as a success case of the World-Bank/International Monetary Fund-Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). It began the implementation of SAP in 1983, in an almost religious fashion, and has since then successfully reversed its economy from one of near-collapse into positive growth. The role of SAP in the modest economic transformation of Ghana has generated much research interest. Considerable literature has been produced and conferences and seminars held on the social, economic and political implications of SAP in Ghana and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past dozen years (Hutuchful 1996; Herbst 1992; Ewusi 1987, Engberg-Pederson et al 1996, among others). However, most of these studies have focused on the broad macro- and national levels in their analysis, therefore leaving a yawning gap in understanding the nature of political economy change engendered by SAP at the local community level. Even much less is understood about how the overall impact of SAP, including its environmental impact, upon the local regions, especially the frontier regions. Yet the process of adjustment has not been a win-win game for all. While new resources, such as minerals, are located and exploited, others such as subsistence farming are given less attention; while new jobs and livelihoods are created, others have lost theirs; some localities gain prominence as others pale into insignificance.

This paper employs the concept of resource alienation in an exploratory manner to examine the socio-environmental implications of neo-liberal SAP in the mining frontiers of the Western Region of Ghana. Resources in this paper specifically refers to all land- (including water) based resources, such as farming lands, hunting and fishing grounds, as forests, which provide the essential inputs to support livelihoods in the localities. By resource alienation is meant the forcible curtailment of the right of access to, and usage of a resource, by a de facto owner of that resource. The process of alienation or curtailment of right is coercive and provides little room for manoeuvre by the de facto owner in the bargaining of its acquisition. Ghana's economic recovery, like that of other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, has been predicated on the ruthless exploitation of its natural resources. In Ghana, resources are mainly located in frontier regions which were hitherto at the geographical fringe of the reach of central government. Inhabitants of most of these frontier regions scarcely identify with the nation state, particularly in their daily life contestations (Emel and Bride 1995; Burger 1990). I will contend that the adoption and implementation of SAP in Ghana has led to the increase in mining activities in the country, by focusing on the resource frontiers of the Western Region. I will show that although mining activities have contributed a great deal to the overall economy of Ghana, SAP has lead not only to the exacerbation of mining-related problems in the region but also the alienation of the local people from their resources. My resource frontier regions are basically the mining enclaves in the Western Region.

The paper is organised as follows: The first part explains the concept of SAP and the rationale for its adoption by Ghana. This is followed by an explanation of other key concepts such as liberalisation and decentralisation as used in the paper. Next, the mining sector policy under SAP and its implications are discussed. This is followed by a focus on the case of the Western Region where there is evidence of the process of resource alienation. The main conclusions are presented in the last part.

Ghana's adoption of SAP: a rationale

SAP is, a constellation of macro-economic policies designed to bring a country's domestic and external imbalance to equilibrium. This has meant a shift from an interventionist stance, which in the past, allowed the state to micro-manage the economy, towards a neo-liberal position which allows the market to allocate resources and the private-sector a dominant role in the management of the economy (Engberg-Perdersen et al 1996; World Bank 1988; Lall 1995). SAP basically advocates an export-led growth strategy of development and therefore pays particular attention to a country's tradeable. The essential issue about World Bank/IMF-SAP is not so much the policy content but the myriad of conditionalities involved in receiving funding for the its implementation which is likely to make the process of implementation inflexible. For Ghana, as for many developing countries, SAP has been a quid-pro-quo for the receipt of development loans and assistance from the multilateral financial institutions. In order for Ghana to receive development loans from the above institutions, it has had to implement a panoply of market-oriented policies such as the devaluation of the Cedi (country's currency) and the introduction of flexible exchange rates, the removal of trade barriers as well as a myriad of other sector-specific policies and incentives to attract investments (Hutchful 1996; Republic of Ghana 1983 and 1987, Ewusi 1987; Herbst 1992; Warhurst and Bridge 1997).

Ghana's adoption of SAP in 1983 seems to me to have been inevitable. The economy was literally in shambles and desperately in need of some form of redemption since the average annual GDP growth rate between 1975 and 1983 was a negative 3 per cent while the per capita GDP growth rate was a negative 7 per cent. Output of cocoa, the lifeline of the country's economy, had fallen from average annual output of about 0.5m tonnes in the 1960s to less than 0.2m tonnes between 1975 and 1983. Gold production had also fallen from 0.9m ounces produced from 30 mines in 1960 to about 0.3m ounces produced by six mines in 1983. In addition, roads and general infrastructure were in a deplorable condition. Given this state of affairs, it was not very surprising that the World Bank/IMF-SAP funding package, in spite of all its conditionalities, would be attractive to a government. The Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) of Ghana in the 1980s was desperate for development funds during the 1980s, and especially in the absence of a more coherent alternative policy backed by concomitant financial support.

Liberalisation, decentralisation and empowerment

Neo-liberal political economy takes its theoretical roots from the political and economic ideology of liberalism which emphasises the primacy of individuals in society and the supremacy of the market forces in allocating resources. Essentially, liberalism advocates a 'hands-off' policy for the government. Theoretically, the 'autonomy' and the 'individual self-interest' assumptions of liberalism makes decentralisation and empowerment an essential feature of neo-liberal political economy (Beetham 1992; Eckersley 1996). Beyond the theoretical realm, decentralisation has also been widely recognised as an essential administrative principle for both the sound management of resources and an effective means of improving local living conditions (Handler 1996; UN 1996; UN 1992; MLGRD 1995). Effective decentralisation, it is argued, will remove administrative inertia, increase the flow of information and also give a sense of responsibility and participation to the local citizenry. However, it was not until 1989 that the World Bank, under whose aegis economic liberalisation in Sub-Saharan Africa has proceeded, openly acknowledged the importance of decentralisation and empowerment as an institutional tool for 'good governance' and an essential feature of political and economic liberalism (World Bank 1989) .

Decentralisation itself is a vacuous concept which lacks a straightforward definition. It may mean the deconcentration or devolution of power and/or both. Joel Handler (1996) suggests that in the context of political economy, liberalisation and decentralisation, as well as deregulation and privatisation, are a move towards local control. That is, the reallocation of authority from the national level to the local level in the management of resources that fall within the traditional and administrative domain of a locality. This implies the sharing of power and responsibilities between levels of government and involves the allocation of responsibility hitherto held by the central government to the local authority and communities. In the context of this paper, effective decentralisation involves both deconcentration and devolution which should, in effect, lead to empowerment of local communities. By deconcentration is meant the reduction and transfer of function at one level of authority to another. From the view point of local government administration, deconcentration is essentially the 'geographic' or 'territorial' delegation of responsibilities to outlying agencies (Morgan 1997; 147). The key issue here is the lack of any real power or genuine autonomy in the outlying regions, when power is only deconcentrated. Devolution, on the other hand, refers to the effective allocation of power, authority and responsibility for the management of a local territory and the resources therein, with authorities recognised by higher level (central) government and the community level (UN 1996). By empowerment is meant the devolution of responsibility of resource management to local communities. This includes the right and ability to participate in the management of resources and also in the sharing of skills, information and rewards.

Decentralisation under neo-liberal economic regime in Ghana

Long after independence in 1957, and until the mid 1980s, the local government structure in Ghana was a direct replica of the colonial local government structure. The colonial local government system was a three-tier type. In the three decades following independence, the local government structure was as follows: At the top was the national administration in Accra, the capital, under which were provincial (regional) administrations and the district councils. The regional administrations and the district councils (in that order of hierarchy), were the units closest to the people and literally carried out the orders of the central government with no autonomy (Boateng 1996). In effect, the British colonial local government administration in Ghana was little more than an extension of central government.

Even though various post-independence governments recognised, at least on paper (MLGRD 1996:2-5), the virtues of decentratisation, they only established local replicas of central government institutions without any serious recourse to power devolution at the local level. Thus, in spite of the establishment, by various military decrees the 1970s (for instance, NRCD 258, 1974, SMCD 219, 1979), of a horde of local administrative institutions such as the Departments of Agriculture, Administration, Treasury, Education, Survey and Town Planing, Social Welfare and Community Development, Public Health, at district levels, the nerve centre of local administrative power remained at the centre. While the concentration of power at the centre may have served the central planning political economy regime that operated in the 1970s and a decade before, one would have expected that the liberalised political economy of the 1980s would led to a devolution of power. But, as will soon become apparent, the story is not all that different from the past.

Since the mid 1980s, 45 new district councils (District Assemblies) have been created in addition to the existing 64 which are considered the central fulcra of the local government system (MLGRD 1995: 261). The establishment of the new districts may be due, in part to the political and administrative expediencies of the economic restructuring process which SAP had engendered (for example, the need to remove administrative inertia for foreign investors) and in part to fulfill the PNDC government's own earlier rhetoric of 'power to the people,' 'grass root democracy' and 'participatory democracy.' Many central governmental agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were set up at the district levels. In addition to the existing structure, the 1992 constitution provided for further decentralisation down, in the following order: Zonal/Urban/Town/Area, and Unit councils . The 1992 constitution (article 252) also provides for the establishment of a the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) which allow the central government to allocate not less than five per cent of the total national revenue in quarterly installments to the districts. In brief, local government structure under the 1992 constitution is as follows: At the helm of affairs is the central government administration under which are regional administrations, district assemblies, Zonal/Urban/Town/Area, and Unit councils. Thus, in terms of structure, local government in Ghana has moved from a three-tier of the immediate post independence era to a five-tier structure within the last decade, with an added financial outlay from the central government. The District Assemblies were established with greater powers. For example, and this is a novelty, the district assemblies are presently required to approve of all Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports before they are accepted by the EPA. It is little wonder that the local government reforms, between the mid 1980s and 1992, have been generally described as the 'most ambitious and far-reaching' local government reform in the history of Ghana (Boateng 1996; 128). However, these reforms must be regarded with circumspection.

By 1996, the Area and Unit committees had still not been established. Moreover, the existing councils and agencies remained inextricably tied to the appendage of central government as all continue to act under instructions from Accra from where they receive more than one-half of their financial budgets. The central government, in the name of the president, directly appoints the District Chief Executives (DCE) and 30 per cent of district assembly members. The DCEs and some assembly members are therefore likely to be controlled by the central government through the 'power of the purse' or of 'appointment'. Furthermore, it was evident during my fieldwork that the environmental committees of DAs were highly constrained by the lack of both logistical and human resources that would enable them effectively assess the correctness of the EIA reports.

Thus, although the post-adjustment local government changes in Ghana have created new structures at territorial levels and, indeed, made some bold reforms in the financing of local government development, such as the District Assembly Common Fund, they have effectively shied away from the devolution of power. There has been little change to the status quo. Moreover, the decentralistion of political power has been confined to the district level while local communities continued to be largely removed from political power and uninvolved in the management of local resources. As a consequence of the above, the past disempowerment of local communities has been perpetuated and reinforced. As it will soon become clear below, this reinforced disempowerment under the 'wild capitalism' of the neo-liberal political economy regime has led to the erosion of even the long-held power of subsistence of the local farming communities in the mining region under review.

Mining sector policy under SAP and its implications

As I have indicated above, the mining sector, like many other sectors in Ghana, suffered a deep slump in between the mid 1970s and the early 1980s. Studies of the decline in Ghana's mineral production during this period have concluded that the cause was less due to the absence of ore than the overall impact of macroecononmic malaise of the country, as well as production constraints of the sector (Republic of Ghana 1983 and 1987, Hutchuful 1996, Barning 1990). Recognising the enormous economic potential of the mining sector, the government took steps, under the SAP, to resuscitate the sector. It provided finances for the purchase of spare parts and materials, and for the rehabilitation of infrastructure such as roads and railways. The government also promulgated new mining laws and introduced generous investment incentives, including a 35 and 45 per cent retention programme for mining companies . In addition import duties on mining plant and equipment have been removed. The new mining law also regularised the activities of small-scale mining activities.

Table 1: Investment by Mining Companies (including loans and equity) from 1985 to 1990
Company $ millions
Ashanti Goldfields Cop.
State Gold Mining Corp.
Billiton Bogosu Gold
Other Gold Mining Companies
Ghana Bauzite Co.
Ghana National Manganese Corp.
Total 463.2
Source: Ghana Minerals Commission

As a result of these policy measures, and coupled with favourable world market prices for some minerals, substantial donor recaptitalisation for the mining industry, notably gold, has occurred. The industry has since received considerable investments (Table 1) and witnessed phenomenal growth as indicated in Table 2. By 1990, there were over 60 companies engaged in gold exploration in Ghana, including 20 foreign companies, and over US$460m had been invested in that sector (Barning 1990, p.1). The Ministry of Mines and Energy figures indicate that, by 1996, the mining sector had received over US$900m for exploration and for the establishment of new mines, as well as the expansion and rehabilitation of already existing ones. Over 1986-1996, the share of minerals to the total foreign exchange earning of Ghana had increased from 17 to nearly 45 per cent and has by 1993, outpaced cocoa as the country's most important foreign exchange earner (ISSER 1996). In volume terms, all minerals, with the exception of manganese, have at least doubled their 1983 outputs. As can be seen from Table 6, by 1996, gold output had increased more than 500 per cent from its immediate pre-SAP volume. Also, nearly 240 small-scale mining concessions had been granted, following the legalisation of small-scale mining in 1989 (Money Market 1992, p.7; interview with Ghana Minerals Commission official in March 1996). Production of almost all the minerals registered growth since the adoption of SAP, the most dramatic being gold. Between 1983 and 1988, six new mines have been opened in addition to the five already in operation. All the new mines were located in the present study area.

Table 2: Mineral Production in Ghana 1983-1995
Year Gold (oz) Diamond (ct) Manganese (Mt) Bauxite (Mt)
1983 283,593 338,769 169,840 70,235
1984 282,299 345,675 263,864 27,453
1985 299,615 634,933 303,334 180,286
1986 287,124 558,915 334,314 204,074
1987 327,960 440,345 295,061 196,255
1988 372,868 259,431 282,337 284,524
1989 428,936 285,631 333,743 374,065
1990 541,408 636,503 246,869 368,659
1991 844,674 687,736 319,777 324,313
1992 998,194 694,029 276,019 399,155
1993 1,214,442 590,821 309,122 364,642
1994 1,426,379 739,969 238,429 451,802
*1995 1,689,470 645,100 193,096 526,335
Source: Ghana Minerals Commission; *ISSER 1996, p.59.

The Mining frontiers of the Western Region

Western Region is one of 10 administrative regions of Ghana and covers about 10 per cent of the total area of the country. The region as a whole contributes close to half of Ghana's foreign exchange earnings through its production and export of timber, cocoa and minerals. It is home to 30 per cent of Ghana's gold, and all its manganese and bauxite. Diamond mining is for most part, relatively small scale, although recent liberalisation is expected to increase diamond mining as more small-scale miners engage in the activity. Incidentally, with the exception of bauxite, the mining of all these minerals, including gold, are concentrated within less than a 40 kilometre radius from Tarkwa. But as it will become apparent below, the voluminous increase se in mineral output and the subsequent high contribution of the region to national revenue means very little, in terms of economic returns, to the local communities under whose feet the resources are being mined.

The region has a total estimated population of 1.2 million with the highest concentration in the mining district of Wassa West administrative district. About half of the population is economically active (Honny 1994, appendix 3.7). According to available estimates (Honny 1994; Songsore et al.) agriculture, forestry and fishery provide over half of all enumerated employment. Mining, on the other hand, employs less than 8 per cent of the labour force of the district.

Mining Operators in the region

Mining activities are carried out by two broad categories of miners: Large-scale mines, operated by big companies employing hundreds or thousands of people and using heavy capital and technology; and, small-scale miners, often individuals or small co-operative groups, using relatively little or no capital. Table 3 shows the various mining companies and the areas of operations. Virtually, all the mining companies are 90 per cent privately owned limited liability companies with mother companies domicile abroad, notably in USA, Australia, South Africa, Canada and Norway. In line with the government's privatisation policy, only a 10 per cent share is owned by the government. Hitherto state-owned companies, such as the Tarkwa and the Prestea Goldfields have been privatised.

Table3: Major Mining Companies in the Wassa West District, 1995
Name of Company Mineral mined Town/village of operation Distance from Tarkwa in km
Goldfieds Ghana Ltd Gold Abontiakoon 3
Ghana Austrialian Gold Gold Iduaprim Bankyim 10
Teberebe Goldfields Gold Teberebe 6
Ghana Manganese Co. Manganese Nsuta 6
Billiton Bogoso Gold Ltd Gold Bogoso-Dumase 32
Abosso Goldfields Ltd Gold Damang-wassa 30
Sankofa Goldfields Ltd Gold Prestea 40

The other group of mining operators are the small-scale ones, legalized since 1989 by the small-scale mining law. By October 1993, the region accounted for over 50 per cent of the small-scale gold mining concessions in the country (Songsore et la 1994). This involved about 120 concessions mainly concentrated within about 40 kilometre-radius of the Tarkwa district. Their activities are coordinated by the various offices of the Small-Scale Gold Mining Centres establish by the government following the legalisation of small-scale mining. There is a large segment of illicit mining operator within the small-scale sector, locally known as galamsey or keshe . Statistical data on this sector is very difficult to verify but it is believed that the galamsey or keshe sector dominates the entire small-scale gold mining operations and may be the largest employer within the entire gold mining industry in the Western region. It is estimated that between 25,000 and 50,000 are directly employed by this informal sector. The small-scale mining group usually use sparse equipment for surface mining and generally operate surface or near surface gold in non-consolidated materials associated with alluvial or fluvial deposit.

The distinction between the different categories of producers has some implications for the community ownership of resources. The illicit small-scale category is populated by indigenous youth who by so doing provide employment for themselves and have a sense of 'working on our own land.' My investigations revealed that they often had a well-organised mechanism of paying some form of compensation to the landowner and the local Chief. They also contribute directly to the village development committees in areas where they operate. In contrast, the 'legal' large scale companies, as we will see below, are required by law to deal, in most part, with the central government in the process of acquiring community lands and thereby removing the sense of ownership of resource by the local community.

The processes of alienation

Increased mining activities, largely engendered by SAP, have led to the alienation of local communities from both their settlements and sources of livelihood on a scale never seen before in the district. The decisive question is about how this process unfolds. In trying to provide an answer to this question, I focus on the large scale mining companies and two parts of the processes: Procedural exclusion and substantive alienation. It is important to underline at the outset that the issue of land alienation is not new. In fact throughout history, states have taken lands from their citizens for mineral exploitation (Young 1992). Both colonial and post-colonial states in Ghana have used their coercive muscles to acquire local lands for the purpose of mineral prospecting 'in the interest of national economy.' What makes the current situation different and more interesting is the extent to which the dispossessive tendencies are conspicuous. In the past, with the exception of manganese and bauxite, most mining activities in the Western Region and in Ghana as a whole occurred underground. This made it possible for both mining and community subsistence farming activities to proceed concurrently. In particular, relocation was rare (NSR 1991). On the other hand, as I show below, the shift to open cast or surface mining method during the post-adjustment era has taken up much larger surface area and led to both rampant relocation/resettlement and dispossession of farmlands .

The procedural exclusion: process of acquisition of concession

Minerals in Ghana are considered a national property and are vested in the state. Specifically, PNDCL 153 (2), Parliamentary Act 475 and Article 156 of the 1992 constitution vest all minerals in the country in the state, irrespective of which geographical or administrative region such minerals are located. Consequently, the Act gives the state the right of compulsory acquisition of land for the purpose of mining. The acquisition of a concession by a mining company begins with exploration and prospecting which is generally seen as the initial search for the mineral(s) at locations which are believed to contain the resource. This is carried out by a 'properly licensed' company who is granted the permit by an agency of the central government, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (Minerals Commission and EPC 1994). Most of the mineral prospecting is carried out on lands often held traditionally by individuals for a family or community. However, the official regulation for prospecting requires the prospector to inform the farmer or landowner about the intention of the companies to explore the mineral resource fourteen days before the commencement of actual exploration. Although the mining regulation allows for compensation to be paid to affected farm owners, the process excludes the owner in the decision about the future of his/her resource and does not give him/her a choice over the willingness or not to part with it. Thus, right from the initial process of land acquisition for mining purposes, the resource stakeholder, the farmer, loses his/her 'bargaining chip' in the bargaining process.

Once prospecting proved positive and the exploitation of the said resource is considered economically profitable by the company and negotiations rests almost exclusively with the company and the central government agencies such as the Minerals Commission, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (which grants the concession right), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In fact, systematic alienation of local people from the negotiation of the exploitation of resources is so clear that they are placed at the bottom of the environmental impact assessment procedure. The Ghana mining regulations requires new companies to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report before the commencement of production, while existing companies are required to submit an environmental management plan (EMP). Both programmes require an intensive study of the local environment and how it will be affected by the proposed mining activity. Surprisingly, none of the major stages in the EIA and EMP requires the involvement of the local community. The only stage at which local community, that is, the people who live close to the proposed mining facility, arises is at the final approval stage, the public hearing stage, when a summary of the EIA is read to the community in front of television cameras and news reporters. The community is required, at this stage, to comment on a report which it can barely understand.

It is clear, therefore, that the initial process through which land resources are acquired by new users, the mining companies, excludes the local communities and gives inadequate regard to their interest. This procedural exclusion does not only incapacitate the local communities from commenting on the assessment procedures or the substance of the EIA report. The value of local knowledge in identifying crucial environmental resources such as endangered animal and plan species is lost.

Substantive alienation

While the procedural alienation discussed above is subtle and often less controversial, the substantive exclusion involves the actuality of forcible surrender of local resources for 'developmental' purposes. About one-third of the Western region (and over 60 per cent of the Wassa West District), has been granted as a mineral concession. Although a substantial portion of mining concessions are yet to be directly affected by mining activities, it is clear that once the concession license has been granted to a mining company, the farmer or traditional land owner loses his right to use the land. Substantive alienation, is evidenced by both relocation/resettlement of communities and the loss of subsistence farming activities. Table 4 shows the extent of land directly affected by mining activities. Five out of the seven major mining activities in the mining nucleus of the Tarkwa area where I collected field data operated open-cast or strip mining. The remaining two had an intention to 'go strip soon' (see also Mbendi and Associate 1997). The Tarkwa and Prestea underground mines have been in operation for over 80 and 40 years respectively and yet have involved the alienation of a total of only 250 ha of land. On the other hand, less than a decade of operations at the Bogosu-Dumase surface mines has alone alienated over 390 ha of land. This and other surface mines have evidently lead to the relocation/resettlement of communities and the destruction of farmers livelihoods.

Table 4: Mining concessions land directly affected by mining in the Wassa West District, 1991.
Mine Concession area (Km2) Total area
directly affected by
mining (Ha)
Tarkwa 16 142
Prestea 139 108
Nsuta 203 527
Teberebe 25 105
Bogosu-Dumasi 148 392
Damang 224 *
Iduaprem-Bankyim 31 *
Awaso 13 216
Source NRS 1991and various EIA reports.
* Not available.

The mechanism through which the process of substantive alienation manifest itself can be better understood through its effect on access to local lands, employment (subsistent livelihoods), social stability and health. In what follows I take a brief look at how these situations have unfolded in the study area.

Effects on subsistent livelihood: Access to local lands

Most of the mining lands are either farms, forest reserves or forest to be converted to farms, or in some cases whole townships and villages. The influx of surface mines in the area conflicts with land-use in agriculture and forestry which are the leading sources of employment in the area. In the study area, cultivated plots usually ranged from 10 acres for small farms to 80 acres for larger oil palm and cocoa plantations (various EIA reports).

Compensation payments

Farms affected by the mining operations were usually paid compensation. My study observed that compensation payments were to continue and the crops to be compensated for included cash-crops such as cocoa and oil palm, and subsistence crops such as cassava, pineapple, plantain, vegetables, maize and cocoyam. The rate of compensation varied from company to company although all six companies which I studied paid compensation nearly two times higher than the government's stipulated rates. The rate of compensation paid depended on the time of the compensation, the commercial value of the crop, the quality of farm (how well it has been maintained) and the age of the crop involved. For example, in 1995, a less than three-month old cassava (a directly consumed crop) farm attracted a maximum of C60,000 (about US$60) per acre while over three months-old cassava farm attracted C100,000 (about US$80) per acre. Cocoa, a cash-crop, attracted a compensation of between C2.1m and C0.07m (US$1900 and US$65) per acre (The compensation rates are expecte to be reviewed every six months to take care of inflation). By February 1996, a total compensation of about US$1.5m (C2200m) had been paid by the five main mining companies to 3000 farmers in the district (interview data, and various company documents).

Surprisingly however, farmers who had not developed their land by the time the concession was leased out to the mining company received no compensation, although their access to the land had been curtailed. This problem has to do with the state regulations on compensation payment rather than the failure of companies to pay. In Ghana, and especially in the study area, the value of land to the people did not necessarily depend on whether or not it had been developed. Land-holding in itself has a value. Hence, the lack of compensation payments to undeveloped land-owners creates the potential for social and political agitation.

Evidently, the rationale behind compensation payments was that farmers affected by the mining activities would reinvest the money to keep them at welfare levels, at least at the same level prior to the severance of the resource from them and to cover the inconvenience of the desuetude of the resource, be it a farm or house. Table 5 provides a sample case of types and area of farms which are directly affected by mining activities. By local standards, the rates of compensation paid was satisfactory although some of them (38 per cent of those interviewed) complained about delays in its payment as well as the amounts paid. About 60 per cent of farmers who received compensation at Damang, Teberabe, and Bogosu areas indicated that they were satisfied with the rate paid to them. The key issue is the absence of a mechanism for the reinvestment of the monetary compensation paid to local farmers to ensure the resource sustainability. It was apparent that those who received amounts exceeding 0.5m Cedis (about US$400) kept their money at the bank, while a few (about one-third) seemed to have clear plans or knew how and where to invest their money. Three people interviewed at Damang received amounts ranging between 10 million and 50 million edis (about US$7000 and US$33,000). Given the lack a formal banking culture of rural people in Ghana , there is the danger that farmers will keep these relatively large amounts of money at home, and thus, stand the risk of robbery or other mishaps, including fire outbreaks. Similarly, in the absence clear-cut savings and investment mechanism for the farmers there is a logical tendency for their compensation monies to be spent within a relatively short period of time.

Table 5: Type and area of farm to be affected by the mining activity at Damang village, 1996.
Main crop Total area (ha) Average area per farm (ha) Proportion of total farm area (%)
Mixed farm
Palm plantation
Oil palm
Total 192.3 7.6 99.7
Sources: Updated (1996) Baseline report of the Damang mines.

Another key issue is that the physical limit imposed by the increasing extent of surface mining which has already affected over 2000 ha of land in the area is likely to lead to food shortages and rising food prices. The destruction of capacity for both cash and food crop production as well as habitat for hunting is already in evidence. Therefore, given the current situation and the rapidity with which surface excavation for minerals is proceeding, it can be predicted that over the near future few land resources would be left for food and cash crop production, and other rural activities such as hunting and fishing. It has already been reported that some of the crops, such as cocoa, in the area is now being cultivated on sub-optimal acid soils with known encroachments in the forest reserves (Songsore et al 1994).

Employment of local labour force

One of the promises of resource development for the local region is employment (Young 1992; Emel and Bridge 1995; Warhurst and Bridge 1997). But as I have indicated earlier in this paper, the mining sector employs only 8 per cent of the inhabitants of the district although it accounts for over 70 per cent of district's GDP, and over 60 per cent of regional GDP. One possible socio-economic implication is that the introduction of each large-scale mining activity is likely to lead to unemployment through its claim for agricultural land. Women are most likely to be the worse affected given their relatively high rate (over 70 per cent) of employment in agricultural related activities and their low rate of employment in the formal mining sector. For example, in 1991, out of more than 300 employees of the Teberebe mines, less than 3 per cent were women, a figure which varies only slightly among the other companies. The figure may rize by about 10 percent more in other conttracted areas like catering. This contradicts the prevailing view that modern mining activities creates more employment (Warhurst and Bridge 1997). By contrast, current mining practices destroy subsistence agricultural activities.

The Ghana government mining policy requires companies to recruit and train Ghanaians (Mineral and mining Law, 1986). All the mining companies indicated in their EIAs the priority for local labour employment. The number and source component of labour to be employed by the various mines are provided in Table 6. The local component of employment is relatively high.

Table 7: Local-expatriate component of labour force by mine
Mine Expatriates Locals Total employed
Teberebe Goldfields
Source: Based on NSR 1991 and various EIAs.

According to all the mining company officials interviewed, they had 'no problem' employing 'local' labour. At least 85 per cent of the staff of the various mines are (or will be) local people. The problem which come up was 'who is a local?' The question is whether only indigenes of the mine area or Ghanaian generally would be employed. Apparently, all the companies recognised the need to give an employment priority to local residents of areas where the mines are located. However, this was difficult because most of the areas directly affected were largely rural areas which generally lacked the requisite skills for modern mines. For example, out of the total of 60 compensation recipients interviewed in Damang, Bogosu-Dumase, and Teberebe , over 60 per cent have had farming as their main occupations throughout their adult lives. The incidence was highest in the Damang area (84 per cent). Nearly 70 per cent of the respondents had educational levels not exceeding elementary school. Hence, even if jobs would be available, very few will have the requisite qualification to be employed. This was clearly reflected in the situation of the Bogoso-Dumase mines. It was revealed that by 1995, out of the 1000 Ghanaian employed in the mines only 10 per cent were local inhabitants (from the Bogus-Dumase area).

Many secondary jobs are likely to emanate from mining activities in the area in the long-run. However, it is not clear whether these secondary jobs would be enough to offset the primary job loses, that is jobs lost to local farming; or whether and to what extent these jobs will benefit the local inhabitant. The situation at the moment, however, seems to suggest that livelihoods lost to local residents through land alienation would not be compensated through corresponding direct employment opportunity by the mines.


Mining activities in the area are resulting in the relocation or resettlement of people and communities. Relocation refers to provision of replacement in kind for a community or an individual affected by the mining operations at a more distant place. Resettlement, on the other hand, refers to the of compensation of cash equivalent for affected community or person. In both cases, however, the person or community loses the original settlement. Table 7 provides provisional data on the number of communities and people being relocated in the study area. It is provisional because the situation can change (it is more likely to increase) depending on exploration and prospecting results. Nonetheless, the table gives a rough idea of the communities which have either been relocated/resettled already or will be resettled soon. It was observed during my fieldwork that most immigrant or settler-workers, that is workers who did not indigenes of the mining villages, preferred to be resettled while indigenous people usually asked for relocation. This was clearly illustrated by the case of Damang and Suromani villages in which residents of the latter, a predominately immigrant cocoa farming village opted for resettlement from the Abosso Goldfields company while the former village agreed to a complete relocated.

Figure 7: Proposed resettlement/relocation and estimated population involved, 1995
Mines Communities to be relocated/resettled Population involved
Bogoso Monkey village, scattered settlement around Malu, Chuja and North Bogoso >100
Damang Damang proper, Suromani and some scattered settlements around Angonafokrom <1500 >2500
Iduaprim-Bankyim Iduaprim settlements >100 <200
Tarkwa Atuabo <200 <300
Teberebe Teberebe, Alhasakrom, Nsuakyir <200 <300
Source: Based on EIA reports and interviews with mines official.

This was not very surprising because most immigrant/settler-workers in Ghana are likely to have long term intention to return to their home towns or villages. Therefore, the payment of relatively large sums of money for resettlement is likely to provide the financial backwaters for 'home going.' Generally speaking, resettlement and relocation is not new in mining history. Nevertheless, it is a fairly new phenomenon in the study area. Previous mines (Tarkwa and Prestea, for example) had drawn settlements closer to its operational areas rather than relocate settlement further away (NRS 1991).

The Prestea mines, for example, is located in the centre of the Prestea town. Furthermore, the Abontiakoon settlement, which is less than two kilometres from the Tarkwa mine site, sprang up as a result of the Tarkwa mines. On the contrary, the operation of surface mining in the area has already had a centrifugal effect of relocating and resettling communities away from their original settlements. It was impossible to obtain the exact number of people and communities to be relocated or resettled by the mines since exploration was still ongoing. However, about five villages and several small settlements (hamlets) have been dislocated both from their economic activities, social and life settlements.

As a new phenomenon, it will be foolhardy to predict the socio-economic impacts of relocation. In terms of modern amenities, such as water, electricity, school building and infrastructure, almost all the villages to be relocated will be better placed than before. For example, in Teberebe the settlers, most of who owned mud-and-thatch buildings, have now been provided with concrete houses and corrugated iron-sheet roofing. The company has also provided improved pit latrines (commonly known as KVIP in Ghana), water supply and new primary school buildings. In the case of Damang which had just begun the resettlement process, one of the top managers of the company had this to say: "We want to change Damang into one of the best towns in the Western region" (Damang relocation/resettlement committee meeting 15.12.96). This seems to be reflected in the company's relocation plan for the village which also includes a school building, well laid streets, electricity, a good water supply and modern shopping centre. Social implications of such a big-bang movement from village to modern town remain to be understood. Nevertheless, such relocation can lead to cultural and historical imbalances as old ties are involuntarily broken and new ones forged.

An interesting example can be found in the case of the Bankyim village. The Nsuakyi community, with its own chief and traditional authority was to be settled in Bankyim because the former had been affected by the Teberebe mine. The contentious question of traditional institutional significance was the position of the Nsuakyi chief and his traditional authority set-up. That is, will the Nsuakyi chief continue to be a chief at his new destination at Bankyi? The essential point here is to underscore the complex linkages between the mining-community alienation process and the tendency to create serious local political spill-overs.

Moreover, mining activities in the area is likely to affect the socio-cultural patterns, stability and trajectory of local cultural lives and histories of the areas under review. It was evident that villages were suddenly becoming towns or operating like dual economies: A modern mining economy with facilities such as telephones, electricity good water, on the one hand, and traditional local Ghanaian villages, on the other. A quotation from a special article on gold mining in Ghana in the Washington Post sums up the situation:

There is no doubt that gold mining is precipitating a fairly steady increase in social tension," a Western diplomat said. "This is not a trickle-down type of prospecting," he added. "It has enriched a small number of people at the top but certainly not that many at the bottom. You see some fancy cars around town, nice houses, but the lower 40 percent of the population is certainly not better off than they were a generation ago (Washington Post 1996)

Although it is the policy of all the mining companies to forge a cordial relationship between the companies and the local communities, it was apparent that such 'marriage of convenience' will not be easy given the perceptibly sharp contrast of conditions between the two situations and the potentials for population explosion. Just one example of the latter situation is offered below. Figures 1 depicts the rate of population growth of the Bogoso and the Damang areas between 1990 and 1995. The population of both areas increased by 50 per cent and 37 per cent respectively, which is over ten times higher than the regional rate of 3 per cent (Songsore et al 1994). A more disaggregated population profile of the Damang area indicates that the population of Damang proper where the mine site is located, grew by 50 per cent between 1990 and 1995, contrary to the official estimated annual birth rate (NRS consultants and Wassa West District Assembly estimates) of 5 per cent. An interesting point is that actual mining has not yet started. Hence, a most plausible inference is that the rapid population growth is the result of in-migration of people seeking mine work. The attendant problems of population influx such as prostitution, high rents and other social vices are yet to be ascertained.

There is an increasing evidence that mining activities have regenerated certain types of mining-related diseases, especially tuberculosis. Even though the evidence I provide below is incomplete and there are some problems in establishing a direct link between the increasing surface mining activities and the state of health in the area, it nonetheless presents an interesting effect of the re-advent of mining activities in the area. Source: Constructed from EIA and interview data

Pulmonary tuberculosis disease, particularly the silicosis strain, is well known to be caused by the inhalation of silica and quartz dust as well as other toxic gases, which are due to mining activities. The Tarkwa and Prestea mining communities are estimated to have a higher prevalence of silicotuberculosis (over 12 times higher) compared to Obuasi, where the production of gold is highest in the country (Avotri 1995). This is probably not surprising because most mining in the study area is carried out in an environment of mainly fibrogenic quartzite dust rock surfaces (Avotri 1995). This estimate may be considerably higher in galamsey areas where ore is pounded into powder, often creating an uncontrolled and heavily dust laden environment. The relatively high prevalence of silicotuberculosis in the area can therefore be linked to the high dust levels of silica and quartz.

The trend over the five year period, as indicated in Figure 2 seems to coincide with the increase in large-scale surface mining activities in the region, the active period of exploration, construction of new mines and increase in production begun in 1988. The decreasing incidence of TB after 1992 the special attention paid to the disease by the district Heath Service authority in the 1990s. The gender gap in TB incidence may be due to the relatively high preponderance of male in the mining activities (about 80 per cent of workers directly involved in mining are male). However, increasingly women are being engaged in small-scale mining directly as "ore carriers" and/or "pounders" or food sellers. For all the 24 galamsey sites visited, a guestimate is that 25 percent of the workers were women. In sum, even though other factors, such as, general sanitation may affect the state of health of the area, it is evident that the direct inhalation of toxic particles such as quartzite dust may be a major cause of TB or may serve to intensify its effect.

Local community resistance to resource alienation

Local frontiers communities have not given up their resources without a fight. They have employed both legal and extra-legal channels of resistance to the process of resource alienation described in this paper. As I will show below, the communities have taken advantage of the relatively democratic multiparty political environment that now exist in the country to press home their demands. In the remainder of this section, I look at the legal and extra-legal approaches adopted so far. I will however, stop short of discussing the relative effectiveness of each of the strategies.

Legal channels

Resistance via the legal channels refers to the adoption of court procedures to seek redress. In the study area, only two cases were identified: one each from Damang and Bogoso-Dumase. In both cases, litigants took the respective mining companies to court to seek better compensation for their properties which had been affected by the mines . However, since the mining companies paid relatively higher compensations than the government stipulations, none of the two residents won his case. Clearly, therefore, the legal system was not very much used. This kind of channel was arguable individualistic and did not involve a whole community or a even a large number of people. Those who adopted it did not seek to restrain the mining companies from using their resources but to press for what they perceived as 'a better compensation.' The rare use of legal resource and the absence of collective use of this channel may be due to inadequate knowledge about the legal system; the complexity as well as the relative financial and time expensiveness of the legal system; the possible lack of confidence by the local people in taking up 'battle' against a company in a court.

Extra-legal: non-co-operation and demonstrations

Like all industrial activities, mining companies in the area need the cooperation of their communities not only in the process of compensation negotiations but also for the overall peaceful co-existence between the two. Since cooperation is a two way-traffic, it is logical that a party which feels dissatisfied in the relationship could withdraw its cooperation as a way of seeking redress or attention to its grievance. This resistance tool was widely used by most of the affected communities. As I have already indicated above, the whole Damang community has been slated for relocation to allow the mining activities to commence. In line with this, a negotiation committee involving the Damang community, the District Assembly and the mining company was formed during September-October 1996.

Even though the community had freely selected their representatives to the Negotiation Committee, and representation of the community was fairly good, in that it had the majority on the committee, the community representatives backed by a large number of the members of the community persistently refused to attend meetings and offer the power of attorney which would formally mandate the representative to engage in negotiation with the mining companies. A short study which I conducted at the instigation of the mining company revealed that non-cooperation by the community was largely a subtle strategy to guard against uncertainties in the negotiation process, particularly over their weak bargaining position - inhabitants cannot refuse to move because they are required by law to do so (Aubynn 1996). Thus, given their perceived weak position in the negotiation process and the complexity of the formal negotiation process in a fairly traditional community, non-cooperation was considered the best response to the complex demand made on the community.

Besides, the non-cooperative attitude of the communities, open confrontations and demonstrations were also employed by the latter as resource for resistance. In 1991, the youth of Damang mounted a demonstration against the mines on what was explained to be the fear that the mine might not live up to its responsibilities. This led to the arrest of about ten of the youth leaders-a situation which the Damang Chief described as "unprecedented in Damang in my over 50 years as a chief of this village." Similar demonstrations had been carried out in the Bogosu-Dumasi area against compensation payments and the alleged pollution of the drinking water. Similarly, on 5 November 1996, the Chiefs of the Wassa West district, in an unprecedented way, demonstrated in the street of Tarkwa against the 'the threat of mine pollution' in the district (Daily Graphic 1996). This is an except of a newspaper description of the demonstration:

There was a drama at Tarkwa, a mining town in Western Region on Tuesday, when 42 chiefs of the divisional council went on a peaceful demonstration as a result of surface mining in the area??The chiefs, clad in mourning cloth and wearing read arm bands around their waist and neck to show how serious they were, were led by Acting President of the Council, Nana Kwadwoh Brempong III, backed by Asafo company. They paraded through some of the principal streets of Tarkwa with placards, some of which read "our future is at risk due to surface mining", "our lands are being destroyed," " no more surface mining", "where should we farm?" "Companies do not respect land owners" "protect our environment" (The Daily Graphic, 7.11.96)

The above demonstration has a significant implication for the government-community relationship because it was unprecedented in the area (and scarcely any other traditional area) for traditional Chiefs to personally and collectively engage in an open demonstration and to a large extent symbolized the disapproval of the traditional rulers (and their people) of governments policy (or the lack of it) towards mining and the environment in the area. Furthermore, in the run-up to the 1996 elections (December 1996) a series of public demonstrations were held in Tarkwa and its surrounding villages against the impact of the mining activities on the society. These demonstrations were organised ostensibly to coincide with the political party campaigns. This may have contributed to the government's defeat in the mining constituency of Tarkwa-Nsueam. In the nearby Prestea-Bogosu-Humi-Valley constituency, the government won by a slim margin of about one per cent. All these constituencies were hitherto considered government strongholds.


Ghana has witness a fundamental change in political economy since the 1980s. This change from state-centric economic regime to free market neoliberal regime has arguably led to some improvements in the national economy including a consistent 5 per cent average annual GDP growth rate and a considerable increase in foreign direct investment and output in the mining sector.

The growth in mineral production activities in the country has occurred largely in the frontier regions which have less links to the central government. These regions have already lost or are in the brink of loosing their access to basic subsistence resources in favour of national economic production. As the case in the preceding description confirms, the local communities in the mining districts of the Western region have had to concede their access to farm lands to mining companies for what is considered as national economic resource through the process of procedural and substantive alienation. This has reinforced community disempowerement over their resources.

The replacement of a relatively lower value/return economic activities such as subsistence farming for higher value/return economic activities is not in itself negative. As I have indicated earlier in this paper, there are somes potentials for the mining activities to create positive impacts through infrastructural development that will benefit the local frontier communities where the mines are based. To be sure, new roads have been constructed and old ones refurbished in some of the mining frontiers. Some of the mining companies have repaired old school buildings or provided new ones for localities for which such facilities would have been a far cry. Indeed, the contribution of the mines to the over all economy of Ghana, especially through export earnings and tax revenues, can be very high. However, the benefits or the potential benefits to the localities where the mining activities take place may be far lower than the cost inflicted on them. A 'dualism' between what I will call 'modern mine economy' with its accompanying technology, and the rest of the local subsistent economy, the frontier economy, has been created in new mining areas or reinforced in the old ones as a result of the reinvigoration of mining since the second half of the 1980s. This has created a disarticulated system that put great limits to the potentials benefit of mining, including employment, to the local economies.

Indeed, the case under review suggests that the entire process of mining, including the acquisition and mineral production, has led to resource alienation which has manifested itself in loss of land for subsistence activities, local unemployment, population explosion and social instability, the escalation of mining-related diseases and the overall loss of environmental resources to the region. This situation has worsened due to the lack of effective decentralisation which would have been expected of the liberalised political economy development path which Ghana has chosen. Already, in 1994, it was estimated that the Western Region lost about 17.2 billion Cedis (US$17.6 million) to the forestry sector alone from environmental degradation through various economic activities (Songsore et al 1994). Thus, to a large extent and in the context of local political economy, the mineral resources in the Western region have become a menace rather than a cure for the developmental ills of the region.

Local communities have responded to the process of resource alienation under the rubric of national development through both legal means, such as the courts, and extra-legal channels such as non-cooperation and public demonstrations. At the moment it does not seem that any of the means will be effective, given the political and the economic strengths of the forces against which they contest the state and large companies.


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