Fit for purpose? Measuring the perception of the impact of mining on the gold and bauxite district in Akyem Ghana, referencing the Sustainable Development Goals' (SDG) Indicators

  • Kwabena Ata Nuama Mensah

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis focuses on how “Fit for Purpose” the use of innovative methodologies including the use of selected standard indicators can be in measuring the performance of large-scale mining and the consequential impact of mining at the local level in Ghana.

Considering the variations in location, scope, activities, minerals being mined, and operational size, the effect of mining on communities can better be assessed using the standardised indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The gold mining and proposed bauxite mining communities of the Birim North District and Abuakwa Municipality of Ghana provided a unique location to undertake such an assessment. The sites are physically and culturally similar though they differ in the geology, type of mineral and mining activities to be carried out.

Supported by reviewed literature, the context of the study was presented, and a theoretical framework was constructed based on the Stakeholder and the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) theories. These theories align with The Endured Value Framework (EVF) that establishes the research objective that businesses including mining, must work with varied interest groups including all stakeholders in the decision-making process for optimal accountability, profitability and sustainability and their impacts must be measured with appropriate and fit for purpose sustainability indicators such as the TBL dimensions and more currently, the SDG indicators, to support global efforts to localise the SDGs.

In gathering the data for this study, an extensive desktop study was employed. Thereafter, a mixed methods approach integrating both qualitative and quantitative methods in gathering primary data using a questionnaire with closed and open-ended questions was utilised. A total of 202 respondents made up of 92 original respondents were purposive-randomly selected from nine gold and ten bauxite host communities, eight focus group sessions involving eighty-one respondents and thirty key informant interviews all from varied stakeholder groupings were later carried out to validate the field data. The derived field data was then processed using SPSS and NVIVO software for the qualitative and quantitative data respectively which were analysed and triangulated to provide findings of the study.

Four key and 2 additional findings based on the perceptions of the respondents can be drawn from the analysis of the derived data. The first key finding confirms that Ghana is keen on achieving all the SDGs by 2030 and that Newmont Ghana Limited representing a large-scale mining company had its vision and mission aligned with the SDG Agenda 2030. NGGL were observed to have made measurable efforts to incorporate sustainable development practices into their operations, through individuals, businesses, and their host communities. A second major finding shows that the targeted High 5, SDGs including SDG, 17, SDG 8, SDG 5, SDG 6 and SDG 3 of Newmont are at variance with what the communities perceive and show that the Top-Bottom approach in selecting such high priority indicators may not always align with host communities at the local level. This gives credence to the need for the Bottom-Up approach in such indicator selection and informed decision making at the local level overall. The third key finding reveals that in both the gold and bauxite hosting communities which served as a control, and among other stakeholders, SDG 4 on Quality Education is significant and indeed is the key SDG target to not only the gold communities but for government, academia and CSOs.

This is because of its enabling role in upgrading the skill set of the youth and the populace and upgrading the capacity of the community overall to make them fully benefit from mining. Additionally, these findings also highlight that, SDG 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation was key to the bauxite host communities seemingly in recognition of the importance of their water bodies and the hydrology of their areas to the bauxite host communities. This is a likely reflection of the poorly regulated mining by both large and small-scale gold companies active in these areas and their negative footprints on such water bodies at the time of the study.

The field study disclosed that the host communities surrounding the Atiwa Range that contain the bauxite also hosted gold deposits by virtue of the geo-tectonic setting of the study area. Hence the host communities for the proposed Integrated Aluminium Industry (IAI) Atiwa Project which also host communities for large and small-scale gold mining companies. As a result, the fifth key research finding reveal significant differences exist in the perception of socio-economic impacts of mining in these gold and bauxite host communities. These are that the interventions of Newmont in their gold host communities are perceived as overall positive and worth emulating in other host mining areas. However, the same fifth finding highlights that the overall impacts of the operations of these active large and artisanal small-scale scale gold operations in the proposed host bauxite communities are perceived as net negative.

Finally, a review of the current governments policies and actions in the bauxite and aluminium industry of Ghana in this study identify a sixth key finding in the measurable steps taken by the Government of Ghana at actualising an Integrated Aluminium Industry (IAI) and the establishment of the Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Corporation (GIADEC) to superintend this initiative.

This sixth finding concludes in summary that the current policies and master plan of the proposed IAI in the proposed bauxite host communities, when fully realised, may lead not only to an upgrade of infrastructure in these bauxite host communities but by adhering to the best global practices in ESG and Forest Smart Mining solutions, GIADEC and its partners may minimize the project’s potential impact on the biodiversity of the host forest areas and associated carbon footprints. Additionally, in line with the UN backed SDG 17, the GIADEC plan intends to pool in efforts of the government, local communities, civil organizations and businesses in partnerships to practice good resource governance on the proposed project.

On the back of the above, the plan further intends to pursue large-scale social investment programs that are intended to serve as a catalyst for transformational growth and eventually help in attaining measurable targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals in support of the success of the IAI and its potential benefits to the state including reversing the wellbeing and socio-economic status of these net negatively impacted proposed bauxite host communities.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAna Bastida (Supervisor) & Rafael Macatangay (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Measuring Impact
  • SDG Indicators
  • Ghana Gold mining
  • Ghana bauxite Industry
  • Sustainable development
  • Responsible Mining

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