Health and well-being of informal, small-scale gold miners in Amansie West District, Ghana
June 01, 2019 - August 01, 2019
Gold plays an integral part in Ghana’s social and economic history and currently accounts for a third of Ghana’s overall export revenue. Increasingly, gold extraction is transitioning from large mining operations to small, often illegal, small-scale mining ventures. While small-scale mining has the potential to directly improve households’ livelihood, particularly in rural impoverished areas, it also poses serious health risks to both the miners and the surrounding communities.
In Ghana, informal small-scale gold mining typically occurs in shallow pits where stone is removed, crushed and amalgamated to extract trace amounts of gold. This process involves the use of heavy metals, most notably mercury, but also in some cases including lead and cyanide. The direct exposure to these metals through mining activities has serious health impacts, especially when protective clothing and equipment are not used. In addition, the runoff has been shown to contaminate water, fish and crops, leading to health impacts beyond the miners themselves. Beyond the direct physical impacts, the practice of small-scale gold mining is also perceived to disrupt the social fabric of the community, potentially being associated with school dropouts, crime and sexual risk behaviors.
This project will work with a local partner, Millennium Promise (MP) Ghana, to assess the health and well-being of informal gold miners in the Amansie West District of Ghana. DGHI has an established MOU with MP Ghana, and last summer had two students worked with them on a community-based research project on rural healthcare delivery. In discussing next steps for collaboration and student engagement, MP Ghana identified the topic of small-scale gold mining as a priority in addressing their broader mission of sustainable development in rural Ghana. MP Ghana is interested in characterizing the individuals who participate in small-scale mining in Amansie West and documenting the health status of this population, in order to develop an evidence base to support education, advocacy and future research.
The SRT team will collaborate design, implement and analyze an observational, mixed-methods study to describe small-scale gold mining in Amansie West, Ghana.
The specific objectives and proposed methods are as follows:
1. To describe the health status of individuals who directly earn an income through small-scale gold mining, and/or the communities in the vicinity of small-scale mining, in the Amansie West District of Ghana. Measures of health status will likely include biological indicators (mercury exposure, anemia, hypertension, body mass index) and self-report measures (e.g., occupational injury, traumatic experiences, sexual risk, psychological well being).
2. To qualitatively explore the factors that lead individuals to participate in small-scale gold mining and the perceived impacts, both positive and negative, of participating in mining activities.
Project Application Process
Students must fill out and submit a project application, CV and recent transcript to GH-Education@duke.edu by October 2, 2018. Students may apply to no more than two project opportunities and a separate application must be completed for each SRT project site. The scheduled interviews for this project location will take place during the week of October 22. Any questions regarding the application, interview dates or general project information should be directed to Lysa MacKeen.
Project Selection Criteria
This SRT team would benefit from students with a diversity of skills and academic training, including environmental and natural sciences, pre-health, social sciences, and humanities. The ideal students for this SRT team will be self-motivated, pro-active, and comfortable working in an environment where roles and focus may change and develop over time. Professionalism, time management and excellent communication skills are key, as are a curiosity and passion for global health research.