Some miners at the mine site at Ampampatia
Gold Bank Resources Ltd. was one of the Ghanaian mines which participated in this project. Training in the safe and responsible use of mercury in gold extraction was an important part of this and, as a result, Gold Bank no longer uses mercury in the gold extraction process.
This project in Ghana further included two important factors: assisting the mine in working according to the Fairmined standard, and carrying out programme activities in the surrounding mining community. These activities have had some positive effects on the access to healthcare for members of the Akyem Mampong community (where Gold Bank was formerly located). In addition, the project also specifically aimed to improve the participation and incomes of the women in the community.
Map of the Gold Bank Mine Site
“Partnering for Better Livelihoods in the Gold Supply Chain”
Between 2014 and 2017, Solidaridad and its partners implemented the “Partnering for Better Livelihoods in the Gold Supply Chain” project in Ghana. The project is part of the larger Solidaridad programme to lead the transition to a responsible, inclusive mining sector from mine to market. Gold Bank Resources Ltd. is one of the mining companies which has participated in this programme.
Gold Bank was established in 2008 near the Akyem Mampong community in the Atiwa District of the Eastern region of Ghana. The mine later relocated to Ampapatia, which is in the same district, due to dwindling ore reserves. In 2017, the mine produced around 3.2 kg of gold per month (up from the monthly 2 kg in 2015). Gold Bank had 30 employees and 21 subcontractors in 2015; two years later, the number of employees had risen to 50. In the meantime, Gold Bank has implemented a staff policy change and no longer hires subcontractors because in Ghana, subcontractors are not generally committed workers. The mine now prioritizes hiring quality staff, and these mine workers receive better salaries as a result.
Isaac Ottopa Appiah, trained welder at the mine, uses proper equipment and practices
On the way to Fairmined certification
In the course of the project, Solidaridad has supported Gold Bank in the process of obtaining Fairmined certification. This certification status has not been achieved by Gold Bank yet but the mining staff have been trained and are operating according to the Fairmined standard. Gold Bank has a fair chance of passing the certification audit thanks to its mercury-free production among other characteristics. The mine is planning to undergo a certification audit in 2018.
“Whatever new knowledge we acquired, we implemented in our operations to minimize or eliminate the hazards associated with small-scale mining." - Eric Kwaku Gyamera, General Manager of Gold Bank Resources Ltd.
Thanks to its participation in the “Partnering for Better Livelihoods in the Gold Supply Chain” project, Gold Bank Resources Ltd. was able to make the transition to mercury-free gold production. This is a distinguishing feature of this mine and was given high priority by the Gold Bank owner. Solidaridad provided technical knowledge, expertise and training about mercury-free production techniques. With Solidaridad’s support and feedback, Gold Bank was able to implement and sustain the use of the panning method in processing. According to Gold Bank, they have previously tried working without mercury but could not sustain this. Solidaridad’s training and assistance have therefore had an important positive impact. Gold Bank is now also able to work more efficiently as a result. The recovery rate has increased to 70-80% (up from 50-60%).
In addition to the implementation of mercury-free processing at the mine, mine workers and members of the surrounding community have also learned about the harmful effects of mercury. This was done through workshops and various awareness-raising methods, such as informative flyers and posters which were distributed in the community area and on the mine site, as well as a bi-weekly health education programme on a popular radio station. The combination of training and awareness campaigning was important in this process.
Mercury-free production is an important achievement because the use of mercury is dangerous to workers’ health and has a negative impact on the environment. Mercury air pollution occurs frequently in small-scale gold mining in particular. Many mines still work with mercury to process the ore and thereby extract the gold. This is a significant health risk to mine workers who are directly exposed to it. Mercury pollution is also harmful to nearby communities, especially because it can travel far in the air and fall back on land and bodies of water. It is also particularly dangerous to the health of children and unborn babies.
Isaac Ottopa Appiah, trained welder at the mine, uses proper equipment and practices
Improvements in working conditions and livelihoods
The health and safety of ASM miners and their working conditions have also improved as a result of the programme. Miners now use personal protective equipment (PPE) at work and have been trained about safety measures. Moreover, Gold Bank miners participated in, among other training activities, practical first aid management training, responsible use of mercury, occupational health and safety, emergency response and fire prevention, environmental management, and safe mine construction.
Their incomes have also increased significantly thanks to higher revenues and more efficient business practices at Gold Bank. In addition, Gold Bank now pays its workers higher salaries in order to keep them motivated and to ensure that good employees want to stay working at the mine. The use of PPE and the availability of other important services make Gold Bank a good place to work, and its employees have given working at the mine a quality rating of 7.6 (out of 10).
Solidaridad has also trained Gold Bank in improved reclamation practices. Reclamation involves the covering up of open mining pits after these have been dug up for use. Communities view reclamation as essential to the health and safety of their community. Open mining pits are dangerous, especially for children, and are also a breeding place for mosquitoes which carry malaria. Solidaridad has trained Gold Bank to cover up open mining pits using a different method which is better for increasing soil fertility. This means that the communities can use that land again after the mining is done.
Gold Bank infographic
Improving community healthcare practices
Solidaridad undertook two main activities in the mining community of Akyem Mampong aimed at better healthcare awareness and access of the community members to healthcare. These activities involved the provision of information through a bi-weekly health education programme on a popular radio station, distribution of flyers and posters, organization of community meetings, and the formation of Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) committees. These WATSAN committees were consequently trained in environmental management, first aid, health, safety, and responsible use of mercury.
The evaluation of this programme has shown that Solidaridad’s activities have led to increased awareness of health issues in the community. Community members have learned more about the negative effects of mercury, malaria and various STDs and have become more aware of the quality of drinking water. Moreover, a Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) committee was re-established and its members received training about water, sanitation, environmental management and first aid.
The activities were implemented following a community-driven development approach, whereby the main aspects of the programme were created based on direct input and a vision shared by the community. Solidaridad considers this approach to be a best practice because it directly involves and engages the community members with regard to what they consider of importance to their own community.
Notably, the community group was not very involved in the beginning, but this has gradually improved. A reason for their initial lack of involvement could be their scepticism of what they would gain from this intervention. This is because they have had experience in the past where community development work was not followed up.
Empowerment of women in community
A women’s group was also established in the Akyem Mampong community. Solidaridad has trained the women in leadership, gender perception, business skills, village savings and loans, and alternative livelihoods. This training has contributed to the women’s feeling of empowerment as well as their improved position and socio-political participation in the communities. Women felt better able to express their thoughts and concerns in the household and the community, while men have also mentioned that they received counselling on resolving household conflicts in a better way.
Part of the alternative livelihoods training was to assess the feasibility of setting up other businesses for the women to earn a living. A basic market analysis for opportunities with respect to alternative livelihoods was conducted and, based on the results, soap making businesses were set up. Unfortunately, the women were not enthusiastic about soap making. Their own preference was actually pastry making but, according to the market analysis, there were no business opportunities for pastry making in the area. This meant that the project did not deliver the desired results. The women’s group have reported to not feel confident about working on their own soap making businesses. As a result, Solidaridad has learnt important lessons to improve future (community) interventions.
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