, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 528–539 | Cite as

Impacts of Surface Gold Mining on Land Use Systems in Western Ghana

  • Vivian SchuelerEmail author
  • Tobias Kuemmerle
  • Hilmar Schröder


Land use conflicts are becoming increasingly apparent from local to global scales. Surface gold mining is an extreme source of such a conflict, but mining impacts on local livelihoods often remain unclear. Our goal here was to assess land cover change due to gold surface mining in Western Ghana, one of the world’s leading gold mining regions, and to study how these changes affected land use systems. We used Landsat satellite images from 1986–2002 to map land cover change and field interviews with farmers to understand the livelihood implications of mining-related land cover change. Our results showed that surface mining resulted in deforestation (58%), a substantial loss of farmland (45%) within mining concessions, and widespread spill-over effects as relocated farmers expand farmland into forests. This points to rapidly eroding livelihood foundations, suggesting that the environmental and social costs of Ghana’s gold boom may be much higher than previously thought.


Ghana LUCC Surface gold mining impacts Farmland displacement Resource curse Participatory analysis 



We would like to thank the Wassa Association of Communities affected by Mining (WACAM); Ministry of Lands, Forest and Mines; the Office of Administration of Stool Lands; Ministry of Food and Agriculture; Land Valuation Board; Bogoso Gold Ltd.; Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OICI) for logistic support and guidance during our field campaign. We are particularly grateful to J. Mensah-Pah, S. Boehm, and our local host who accompanied us and made safe and efficient field work possible. TK gratefully acknowledges support by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vivian Schueler
    • 2
    Email author
  • Tobias Kuemmerle
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hilmar Schröder
    • 2
  1. 1.Earth System AnalysisPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)PotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Geography DepartmentHumboldt-University BerlinBerlinGermany

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