A new study has examined whether artisanal gold mining really is a “sustainable” option and if farmers (in this case, cocoa farmers in Ghana) should be giving up their fields to pursue the quest for gold.
Through our consulting work with local villages in developing nations, we’ve often suggested that many communities are better served by focusing on truly sustainable activities like farming or beekeeping or other endeavors that do not permanently scar the earth. While the appeal for quick riches from gold mining can be tempting, the costs are often too high and the long term benefits are often too low. This new study seems to support our thinking.
The researcher, Stephen Yeboah, who is currently a Research Fellow at the Africa Progress Panel, a non-profit organization chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, concluded that “although ASM (artisanal and small-scale mining) provides an additional source of income for some farmers, it is more of a complementary activity rather than a complete substitute for farming. The costs far outweigh the benefits ASM provides to these communities. ASM affects land and farms too often with little or no compensation. The majority (90 per cent) of farmers sampled in the district indicated that compensation is not adequate to mitigate the cost of the permanent loss of lands.”
The truth is, gold mining is not sustainable nor is it the best hope for many small communities, no matter what its proponents may tell you. At Leber Jeweler, we offer 100% recycled gold exclusively as a way to ensure no hard rock mining is done to procure the precious metal in our Earthwise Jewelry and we are pleased the Ghanaian farmers recognize their future is not paved with gold, but with soil.