Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Geography

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Isaac Luginaah & Dr. Godwin Arku

Abstract

The emergence of a gold mining industry and the influx of Artisanal Small Scale Mining following recent discoveries of gold deposits in Northern Ghana have posed new socio-cultural, economic, environment and health challenges for residents in a dry savannah zone that is already facing negative consequences of environmental change. Yet, knowledge of the impact of this emerging industry on the health of local population, and the extent to which it makes such a stressed environment more uninhabitable, has been lacking. In addition, studies elsewhere, mostly in the southern part of the country where mining predominates, have largely concentrated on assessing the impact of mining activities on the physical environment (i.e. water bodies, soil/land and air). This thesis examines perceptions of residents on the impact of mining and environmental exposures on individual and community health and wellbeing in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The study utilised cross-sectional data (n=801) collected on household heads in fourteen mining communities in the region, and employed negative log–log and binary logistic regression analytic techniques to examine the impact of environmental exposures from mining on residents’ self-rated health and their desire to relocate from their traditional communities. The findings suggest that, in areas inundated with mining activities, residents closest to mining operations (impacted communities) who were either neutral or believed mining activities caused health problems were more likely to rate their health as poor compared to those who did not believe mining activities caused health problems (OR=2.01, p≤0.001 and OR=1.98, p≤0.001, respectively). Interestingly, only those who were neutral to the impact of odours on poor health in the affected communities were more likely to rate their health as poor compared to those who did not believe it had a health impact (OR=1.53, p≤0.1). On the desire to relocate from the community however, residents who complained they were not adequately informed about the mining operations and those who were of the view that mining operations were not meeting environmental standards, were more likely to consider relocating from the community (OR=2.10, p≤0.001 and OR=1.61, p≤0.1, respectively). Furthermore, the study found that age, gender, education, wealth and religious beliefs have an influence on residents’ self-rated health and their desire to relocate in relation to mining exposures. The emerging mining industry potentially is exacerbating the already stressed environment, contributing to poor health, and forcing local populations to abandon their traditional communities. It also highlights the dichotomy between “expert” versus “lay” understanding of what constitutes substantial health risk during environmental exposures. It is recommended that, aside the urgent need to review Ghana’s Minerals Act and “expert” health risk assessments, there should be a strong enforcement of environmental best practices in mining operations and an effective engagement of communities for partnership in mining activities. Specialized health, environment and food security policies and intervention are recommended to reduce the vulnerabilities of mining communities in the Upper West Region of Ghana and in similar contexts in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Available for download on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


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