Professor Danielle Wood and a team of collaborators from NASA, East Carolina University, Ghana Statistical Service and the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute published a new study on the scope of vegetation loss in Ghana due to mining. Congratulations to lead author, Abigail Barenblitt!
View an interactive Web Map to see the main data from this study showing mining patterns in Ghana!
"The large footprint of small-scale artisanal gold mining in Ghana," published in Elsevier, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 781, 10 August 2021, 146644.
Authors: Abigail Barenblitt, Amanda Payton, David Lagomasino, Lola Fatoyinbo, Kofi Asare, Kenneth Aidoo, Hugo Pigott, Charles Kofi Som, Laurent Smeets, Omar Seidu, Danielle Wood.
Gold mining has played a significant role in Ghana's economy for centuries. Regulation of this industry has varied over time and while industrial mining is prevalent in the country, the expansion of artisanal mining, or Galamsey has escalated in recent years. Many of these artisanal mines are not only harmful to human health due to the use of Mercury (Hg) in the amalgamation process, but also leave a significant footprint on terrestrial ecosystems, degrading and destroying forested ecosystems in the region. In this study, the Landsat image archive available through Google Earth Engine was used to quantify the total footprint of vegetation loss due to artisanal gold mines in Ghana from 2005 to 2019 and understand how conversion of forested regions to mining has changed over a decadal period from 2007 to 2017. A combination of machine learning and change detection algorithms were used to calculate different land cover conversions and the timing of conversion annually. Within the study area of southwestern Ghana, our results indicate that approximately 47,000 ha (⨦2218 ha) of vegetation were converted to mining at an average rate of ~2600 ha yr−1. The results indicate that a high percentage (~50%) of this mining occurred between 2014 and 2017. Around 700 ha of this mining occurred within protected areas as mapped by the World Database of Protected Areas. In addition to deforestation, increased artisanal mining activity in recent years has the potential to affect human health, access to drinking water resources and food security. This work expands upon limited research into the spatial footprint of Galamsey in Ghana, complements mapping efforts by local geographers, and will support efforts by the government of Ghana to monitor deforestation caused by artisanal mining.