Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) methods and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: Perceived implications for clean water supply

Francis Arthur-Holmes*, Kwaku Abrefa Busia, Diego Alfonso Vazquez-Brust, Natalia Yakovleva

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper aims to examine methods of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Ghana, map their perceived impacts on water resources and analyze the implications of these perceptions for meeting the targets related to Clean Water of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6). The paper draws in 74 interviews with miners and stakeholders in multiple ASM gold mining sites to investigate communities’ perceptions of the effects of ASM mining methods (alluvial mining, surface/open-pit mining and underground mining) on water bodies. We find that different ASM methods are perceived to impact surface and groundwater in distinct ways while concurrently having a synergistic negative effect on water bodies. Stakeholders -including community leaders- perceived that the mining methods employed in ASM had caused various forms of environmental degradation – thus affecting perceived progress towards SDG 6, target 6.3 (water quality) - and severely hindered the availability of clean water for domestic and agricultural purposes, thus endangering the livelihood of communities and perceived progress toward SDG 6, target 6.4 (sustainable water use). The community perceived impacts of ASM activities on water resources have implications for community acceptance of formalization efforts in Ghana. We contend that a better understanding of these perceived impacts can help shape the country’s policy for achieving the targets of SDG 6 in relation to Clean Water by 2030. In particular, we propose that the integration of the Community Mining Scheme (CMS) as part of formalization efforts of informal gold mining in Ghana not only responds to SDG 6 target b (participation of local communities in water management) but also has the potential to reverse the current large-scale mining ‘bias’ in policy, while addressing the galamsey challenge that contributes to the increasing impact of informal gold mining on SDG 6, targets 6.3 and 6.4.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-215
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date13 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
  • water resources
  • sustainability
  • Sustainable Development Goal 6
  • Ghana


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