Mineral exhaustion, livelihoods and persistence of vulnerabilities in ASM settings

George Ofosu*, David Sarpong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Formalisation of the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector has come to dominate the discourse on mineral exhaustion, livelihoods, and the persistence of vulnerabilities in ASM settings. Often touted as a panacea to curbing the excesses of informal mining operations, the calls for the formalisation of ASM operations continue unabated. In this paper, we explore how the operations and management practices in the growing formal ASM sector are formulated and (re)negotiated in practice. We develop our contribution in the context of a formalised small-scale mining operator in Ghana, focussing on its organizing practices and operational outcomes within the contingencies of organizing to explicate how livelihoods and vulnerabilities persisting in ASM settings are identified and labelled in practice. The data for our inquiry come from ethnographic interviews with management and staff. Our findings, in emphasizing, but also nuancing, what has come to be known as the ‘mineral-exhaustion-vulnerabilities’, provide insights into how the organizing practices induced by formalisation cohere to support socio-economic and environmental mitigation efforts. We note that the persistence of vulnerabilities, rather than the lack of mitigation mechanisms, is largely influenced by profligacy and the incipient lack of investment culture. We conclude by highlighting the need for sustainability mechanisms, based on exit strategies for ASM operators, to tie in with comprehensive policies and lessons on income diversification and investment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-163
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date6 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
  • Formalisation
  • Mitigation mechanisms
  • Sustainable development goals


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