The Health and Environmental Implications of Small-Scale Gold Mining Operations in the Bolgatanga District

ABSTRACT

This was a descriptive cross-sectional study to ascertain the health and environmental implications of small-scale gold mining operations in the Bolgatanga District of the Upper East Region. Small-scale gold mining started actively in an area designated the Small-Scale Gold Mining Area about two (2) years ago. The three main types of gold mining operations were alluvial, colluvial and lode gold mining. Alluvial and colluvial gold mining involved both sexes but lode gold mining was the exclusive preserve of males.

Whereas mercury was used in the processing of ore in colluvial and lode gold mining, alluvial gold mining did not require its use. Explosives, though prohibited were freely used in lode gold mining because gold was encased in granite buried several metres below ground level.

The 40 underground lode gold miners, chosen conveniently and interviewed were multi-ethnic in nature with a non-indigenous (non-Upper East) to indigenous (Upper East) ratio of 3:2. They were relatively young with a mean age of 28.8 ± 5.8SD years. Forty five percent (45%) smoked tobacco, 50% drank alcohol and 37.5% drank alcohol and smoked tobacco. Two and a half percent (2.5%) admitted smoking marijuana. They described their working conditions as good but agreed that working in single pits without adequate ventilation could be suffocating. The common health complaints among them were headache and bodily pains, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, catarrh, cough and chest pains. Other ailments were seasonal. Cholera and Pneumonia were rife during the wet season whereas Cerebrospinal Meningitis, Chicken Pox and Measles were common during the dry season. Malaria, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), Scorpion and Snake Bites were also prevalent. The job-related injuries included lacerations and abrasions, foreign body in the eyes and falls in the pits. Cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM); Cholera, Snake bites, Inhalation of ‘Smoke’ (Carbon monoxide fumes), Cave-ins, Dynamite explosions and Falls into pits were mentioned as causes of death among miners. There was total disregard for the use of protective clothing during working hours. The reasons given were non-availability, non-affordability, suitability and a false sense of security. Almost everyone knew about the side effects of carbon monoxide (smoke) inhalation but 37.5%, 45% and 70% did not know of any side effects of dynamite, dust and mercury respectively.

The environment was characterized by substandard housing, overcrowding, poor water and sanitation facilities, high noise levels and atmospheric pollution with dust, fumes from water-pumping machines and detonation of dynamite. Numerous rock and soil ‘waste’ dumps, land denuded of trees, shallow excavations and abandoned pits littered the environs of the small-scale gold mining area. Concerted actions by the stake-holders, i.e. the Government through the review of existing legislation, technical and financial support for small-scale gold miners; the District Assembly through the monitoring and evaluation of gold mining activities and the setting up of an Environmental Rehabilitation Fund, and lastly the willingness of both miners and the non-mining community to observe good health and environmental hygiene practices, are some of the ways required to make small scale gold mining operations both health and environment-friendly. 

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APA

OBENG, E (2021). The Health and Environmental Implications of Small-Scale Gold Mining Operations in the Bolgatanga District. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/the-health-and-environmental-implications-of-small-scale-gold-mining-operations-in-the-bolgatanga-district

MLA 8th

OBENG, EMMANUEL "The Health and Environmental Implications of Small-Scale Gold Mining Operations in the Bolgatanga District" Afribary. Afribary, 07 Apr. 2021, https://afribary.com/works/the-health-and-environmental-implications-of-small-scale-gold-mining-operations-in-the-bolgatanga-district. Accessed 25 Jul. 2024.

MLA7

OBENG, EMMANUEL . "The Health and Environmental Implications of Small-Scale Gold Mining Operations in the Bolgatanga District". Afribary, Afribary, 07 Apr. 2021. Web. 25 Jul. 2024. < https://afribary.com/works/the-health-and-environmental-implications-of-small-scale-gold-mining-operations-in-the-bolgatanga-district >.

Chicago

OBENG, EMMANUEL . "The Health and Environmental Implications of Small-Scale Gold Mining Operations in the Bolgatanga District" Afribary (2021). Accessed July 25, 2024. https://afribary.com/works/the-health-and-environmental-implications-of-small-scale-gold-mining-operations-in-the-bolgatanga-district