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Sustainability assessment of mine-affected communities in Ghana: towards ecosystems and livelihood restoration

Antwi, Effah Kwabena, Owusu-Banahene, Wiafe, Boakye-Danquah, John, Mensah, Ruby, Tetteh, Jacob Doku, Nagao, Masafumi, Takeuchi, Kazuhiko
Sustainability science 2017 v.12 no.5 pp. 747-767
economic development, ecosystems, environmental impact, gold, humans, infrastructure, landscapes, livelihood, mineral resources, mining, stakeholders, Ghana
Since the 1980s, many regions in Africa that are rich in mineral resources have undertaken significant reforms to attract foreign investments. While the reforms have broadly boosted mineral production and spurred economic growth, there is a general feeling among stakeholders in the mining sector that such investments have not lived up to their rhetorical promise of improving human well-being. In Ghana, such concerns are particularly pronounced in localities that host mining activities. In such areas, mining can have a series of sustainability impacts that affect manifold the local environment and the local communities. However, there is very little effort to systematically assess the local impacts of mining in Ghana and Africa in general. Our study develops a composite sustainability index that can provide a holistic assessment of the local sustainability impacts of mining. We apply this index to understand the sustainability of three communities surrounding the gold mine of the Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd., in the Ahafo South District of Brong Ahafo region. We combine indicators that represent the key local environmental, social, economic, and institutional impacts of mining to assess local sustainability during the active stages of mine development and operation. We use a series of different methodologies and participatory techniques to arrive at the different indicators, as well as to rate them. Results suggest that despite some between-community similarities for some environmental impacts, the local communities often had radically different scores for social, economic, and institutional aspects of sustainability. Based on the findings, we argue that restoration efforts need to be customized to reflect the between-community variation and go beyond simple landscape reclamation to include interventions that improve human well-being, secure infrastructure, and enhance the collaboration among stakeholders to enable the affected local communities’ transition to sustainability.