Artisanal Mines and Multinationals in Ghana

Conflict between foreign investors and local miners


Ghanian government, multinational corporations, artisanal small-scale miners, gold buyers, Ghanian citizens


As employment opportunities become more scarce in developing countries, artisanal small-scale is a fast-growing industry, employing 15 million people across 80 countries worldwide. Many mines are not registered with the government, technically making their operations illegal. The decentralized nature of the industry also brings the realities of child labor, unsafe work conditions, and environmental harm, such as mercury pollution, into play. This informal mining network runs into conflict with multinational companies who bring foreign direct investment that competes with small miners, causing conflict between the groups.


The study in question showed multinationals generally failed to recognize that the artisanal miners were members of the communities they affected. The mines had moral legitimacy among community members, who had power to thwart multinationals' operations. After 2008, the lines between communities and the mines blurred, with community members working part-time, full-time, or intermittently in the mines. Awareness of small-scale mining as a Ghanian institution began to shift government officials' positions in the illegality of artisanal mining.

Peace Engineering Takeaway

Recognizing community institutions as legitimate, even if not recognized by law, accounts for their presence in citizen communities at large. This acknowledgement of people power among local enterprises encourages foreign actors to negotiate peacefully with what they view as competition. Similarly, the people power of the communities managed to shift the mindset of the government, which then adjusted its own handling in response to view both sides of the conflict peacefully. The next step in the process would be for multinationals to practice “legitimization through engagement” to train the artisanal miners in responsible mining practices that improve worker safety and reduce environmental impact.
Last updated January 2018. Powered by Webflow.