Graham Sustainability Institute

Water Sustainability, Infrastructural Inequity, and Health in Small-Scale Gold Mining Communities in Ghana

Project Photo

Project Team

Elisha Renne – Department of Anthropology and Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, LSA
Richard Neitzel – Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health
Niladri Basu – Department of Natural Resource Sciences,School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University (previously at University of Michigan School of Public Health)

Project Summary

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has proliferated worldwide largely because of powerful economic forces and widespread poverty. Although ASGM can provide significant economic benefits to miners and their communities, particularly in rural areas where viable alternative livelihoods are scarce, there is growing evidence that ASGM activities have profound public health, ecological, social, and economic consequences.
Working with Ghanaian researchers from academia, government, and non-governmental organizations, as well as other international experts, the team identified the causes and consequences of ASGM in Ghana and developed alternative solutions that allow gold-mining to occur in ways that are safe for environmental and human health without decreasing economic prosperity. Among its many accomplishments, the project:
  • led to the implementation of neem seed oil production operations in Ghana that offer women new economic opportunities and better health for their families by avoiding mercury exposure associated with ASGM.
  • produced resources and recommendations to assist on-going national initiatives and policy changes for ASGM in Ghana, as well as efforts in Ghana and other countries who will become parties to the United Nations Environment Program's recent global treaty on mercury pollution, the Minamata Convention, which has entire articles devoted to the ASGM sector.
  • yielded over 20 peer-reviewed publications, including a special journal edition in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and 10 presentations at international and local conferences. The study's new data contributed immensely to understudied aspects of ecological and human health in ASGM areas and in some cases are among the first studies in Ghana to provide data on their respective topics, and in some cases, the first in sub-Saharan Africa.
This project was one two projects conducted concurrently as part of an overall Integrated Assessment addressing major water issues and their impacts on health.


ASGM Research Group (web page) Project website
For more details read the final project report (PDF | 5.29 MB, 80 pages)
This project received a $350,000 Integrated Assessment Grant in 2012.