Gold mining is as robust as ever and most of the gold in the world is mined by large corporations that are among the richest in the world. However, there are many people (estimates show that there are close a 100,000 people who work gold fields independently) who are independent gold prospectors. These independent smaller, artisan operations, are actually a huge force collectively in rival with the mega gold mining corporations.
The Galamseys in Ghana alone for instance are estimated to number approximately anywhere between 20,000 to 50,000 individuals that are in the gold mining trade, directly or indirectly. In neighbouring francophone countries, such workers are called Orpailleurs these miners also number in the thousands. These prospectors are mostly legit gold miners but in some instances they have been known to cross legal boundaries in the quest to mine for gold. In Brazil, such workers are called Garimpeiros who have a consortium of gold buyers and gold sellers who control the cash for gold trade.
Whatever or however said, gold mining is a risky business. Based on this insurance companies normally demand high premiums on insuring these operations and the individuals involved in such industry. The high risk nature of such ventures was seen in the collapse of an illegal mine at Dompoase, close to the Ashanti Region, in Ghana, the incident that took place on the 12th of November 2009, claimed the lives of 18 gold miners who were killed which included 13 women. Women who work at most mines normally are involved in house – keeping activities of the mining vicinity some who work at the mines act as porters. This tragic incident was considered the worst mining disaster in Ghanaian history. The illegal aspect of the mining disaster caused uproar when some of the rescuers that were also working at the mines were later arrested and jailed for their role in being active in the illegal mine.
The gold business in Ghana is an essential trade for the country that is mostly in poverty. Buying gold and selling gold in the black market feeds approximately 30% of the population. There are still many more illegal gold mining operations that are conducted under the radar of the authorities. The gold obtained from these mining factions are normally quickly extracted and converted to gold jewellery that are sold far below the market value to keep the whole operation in a ‘low profile’ state. Gold mining will be without doubt an industry that will be controversial as long as mining operations persist.