Dakete Small-Scale Mining Co.

Solidaridad West Africa

The worldwide gold mining sector is facing many serious challenges. Many artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) are facing hard working conditions and poor livelihoods. Gold mining also often has negative effects on the environment. Solidaridad and its partners strive to improve this situation. Between 2012 and 2015, Solidaridad implemented the programme “The Face of Ghana’s Gold” with sponsorship from the National Postcode Lottery (NPL) of the Netherlands.

  • In 2016, Solidaridad's global gold team visited the Dakete mine, where they met with the mine management and lead miners. 

  • Lead miners are responsible for the daily implementation of better labour and environmental practices.

  • During their visit, Solidaridad's global gold team was shown around the mine by Dakete's management staff and lead miners. 

  • This miner at Dakete is changing the carpet in the sluice box. The crushed ore with sand is washed down the sluice box, with gold particles sinking and subsequently being captured in the carpets.

  • The ore is inserted into the sluicing box for further processing.

  • With Solidaridad’s support, the mine was able to improve its safety measures, environmental impact, operations and the livelihoods of its community members.

  • Solidaridad has supported the mine with implementing improvements in its safety measures, environmental impact, operations and the livelihoods of its community members.

  • Children playing on the street in the community around the Dakete mine.

Dakete Small-Scale Mining Co. was one of the mines which participated in this project. The main goal was to improve the livelihoods of people in and around the artisanal gold mining area of Tarkwa in Ghana. This included ensuring safer and more responsible working practices of ASM miners, obtaining a visible place in the gold supply chain for mine workers, and a better livelihood and socio-economic position for women and children.

With support from Solidaridad, Dakete has been working towards becoming the first Fairmined-certified mine in Africa. In addition, thanks to Solidaridad’s support, in 2015 and 2016, Dakete won the Small-Scale Mining Company of the Year Gold Award during the Western Regional Business Excellence Awards. This award recognized the positive and significant contribution of Dakete to the development in the Western region of Ghana.

Lead miners at Dakete

Dakete and “The Face of Ghana’s Gold” Programme

The programme “The Face of Ghana’s Gold” was implemented between 2012 and 2015 and aimed at improving the livelihoods of 10,000 people working in the artisanal gold mines in Tarkwa, Ghana. Dakete was one of the mines which participated in the programme. Another important goal of this project was to protect the environment in the process of mining.

Dakete Company Limited is a small-scale mine located at Tamso, a suburb of Tarkwa in Western Ghana. It was established in 1989 and has a concession size of 25 acres. Dakete aspires to produce gold in an efficient, safe and environmentally friendly manner as well as to create employment opportunities for the youth in the surrounding area. These employment opportunities can contribute to decreasing poverty in the region and to improving the livelihoods of the people. Dakete practices both underground and surface mining and employs 25 permanent employees, 30 underground subcontractors and 20 female carriers.

Miners of Dakete at an information session about safety measures in the mine

On the way to Fairmined certification

Dakete is now close to receiving a Fairmined certification. A certification audit for this purpose took place in February 2016. This audit included over 200 assessment criteria, and two major non-conformities were raised at the time. Dakete has since addressed and resolved both of these. However, the mine cannot be re-audited again yet due to the small-scale mining ban in Ghana. The current expectation is that the ban will be lifted in January 2018, following which a new audit date can be planned. Although ‘The Face of Ghana’s Gold’ programme has officially been completed, Solidaridad continues to support Dakete with technical knowledge and advice to enable the mine to attain this certification.

Fairmined certification is an international standard used for promoting and carrying out responsible gold mining practices. These practices include formal and legal mining operations, human and labour rights, health and safety practices at mining sites, and safeguarding the environment. It is also possible to trace the gold produced according to this standard as Fairmined-produced and certified. Dakete became the first small-scale mine in Ghana to produce traceable gold.

Obed Kudi, age 55 at the time of the interview in 2013:

Obed Kudi is a miner at Dakete and had worked there for 12 years at the time of the interview. He does this work to support his family. The hardest part of his job is transporting the sacks of ore from underground. What he enjoys most at work is teaching the new miners how to work safely underground. During the interview, he indicated their working conditions have improved with mining shafts being continuously reinforced and the provision of personal protective equipment, which has reduced the number of injuries at work. He intends to keep doing this work for as long as he is strong enough and able to do so.

In response to the question what he would say to people who play a role across the gold supply chain, Obed said: “They should feel special when they use anything made of gold because it takes a lot of hard work to get just a gram of gold.”

Programme activities and results

“The Face of Ghana’s Gold” project activities addressed a number of issues, among which the health and safety of the miners and their working conditions at the Dakete mining site. Six lead miners were given training in safety, health and environment on topics relevant to the responsible mining standard requirements. The lead miners had in turn trained their fellow miners to ensure that the mining operations at Dakete were carried out sustainably.

Mine workers received training in occupational health and safety, first aid, basic facilities for medical care, safe use and storage of mercury, as well as in socially acceptable labour conditions and their rights as workers. They were also trained in optimization of mining processes. One of the indicators of the success of these trainings was the observed reduction in cases of injury and fatality at the mine. Health and safety training also increased the awareness of the miners about the importance of their health.

Moreover, female miners were given training about the importance of education and also took part in the income diversification programme (see more about this in the section below under ‘Improving Community Livelihoods’).

The miners at Dakete were further trained in better practices in environmental management techniques and ecosystem restoration, as well as safe mining techniques and safe use of equipment. This training was done by the ACE Minerals Consult of the University of Mines and Technology.

Miners received free personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear during their work at the mining site. Safety signs were also provided at vantage points in the mine to remind the workers of the do’s and don'ts. Programme evaluation has shown that health and safety conditions at the Dakete mining site have improved as a result of the project, such as increased use of personal protective equipment and responsible use of mercury.

In the course of the programme, Dakete has received a mercury retort - a specialized instrument used for separating gold and mercury - from the University of Mines and Technology. Miners have indicated that thanks to this retort as well as the training they have received, their knowledge of the dangers of mercury has increased significantly and they are now aware of how to reduce their use of mercury and its harmful effects. This is an important improvement towards safer working conditions at Dakete and it is more environmentally-friendly. The miners have also been introduced to mercury-free technologies.

Map illustration of Dakete mine

Improving community livelihoods

Furthermore, the programme focused on improving the livelihoods of the community members, including women’s empowerment, and the position and education of children. Around 30 women in the Tamso community organized into a group and put governance systems in place with support from a community expert hired by Solidaridad. The women received awareness training about the importance of school education for their children. The effects on maternal health have also been positive.

The female group was also trained about empowerment in decision making at the mines and in the community, and there were alternative livelihood activities organized for the women, such as making batik and tie-dye clothing. This alternative livelihood training was meant for providing the women in the community with greater economic and employment opportunities.

In addition, a daycare centre for children was constructed. School-going children of miners were supported, for instance, through the provision of school uniforms and other school necessities such as books, exercise books, pens and pencils. The number of miners’ children who were able to start going to school has increased. This result was largely attributed to training sessions given to female miners, during which the importance of education for their children was emphasized.

Internal control system

The programme has facilitated the update of the Internal Control System (ICS) through exchange visits by sustainability officers engaged by the mine. The officers helped to facilitate the implementation of the Fairmined Standard. The ICS ensures traceability in the system of production at the mine and thus meets an important requirement of the Fairmined standard. The programme results and internal activities at the mine can now be kept well documented. These documents, both soft and hard copies, include documentation on transaction details and training (e.g. mercury use, health and safety, first aid, safety meetings, women’s association meetings, and environmental management).

Moreover, a robust system for handling disputes and grievances was developed as part of the ICS. The ASM miners working at Dakete can now make use of this system when necessary to settle and reduce work-related conflicts. This has led to a significant reduction in conflicts among miners and concessioners.

Benjamin Afewu, age 33 at the time of the interview in 2013:

Benjamin Afewu is an office administrator at Dakete and had worked there for two years at the time of the interview. During the interview, he indicated that the hardest part of his job is training new miners on the newly adopted practices. The part of his work he said to enjoy the most is seeing the smiles on the workers’ faces when they receive their salaries. He shared that the new filing and computer systems used for the documentation of all activities have been an improvement in his work and makes record keeping easier. He intends to keep doing this work for as long as he can.

In response to the question what he would say to people who play a role across the gold supply chain, he said: “I urge them to seek and invest in CSR activities in small-scale mining communities like ours.”

Programme challenges and lessons learned 

The programme results with respect to the income earned by the miners were mixed. On the one hand, miners were paid their salaries on a more consistent and regular basis, which offered them more security. On the other hand, the actual earnings were reported to be less than before the start of the programme. This is an important point for further consideration in improving the financial livelihoods of the ASM miners in addition to the improved working conditions at the mine.

An important challenge at the moment is the current ban in Ghana on small-scale mining. This means that Dakete has not yet been re-audited for a Fairmined certification. The ban is expected to be lifted at the beginning of 2018, following which another audit date for Dakete can be planned. Solidaridad continues to support Dakete in the process of attaining Fairmined certification.

 

Back to the Solidaridad gold programme