A galamsey, derived from the phrase "gather them and sell", is a local Ghanaian term which means illegal small-scale gold mining in Ghana; such workers are known as galamseyers or orpailleurs in neighboring francophone nations. Galamseyers are people who perform illegal gold mining independent of mining companies, digging small working pits, tunnels, and sluices by hand.
Generally the galamseyers can dig only to a limited depth, far shallower and smaller than commercial mining companies. Under current Ghanaian law, it is illegal for galamseyers to dig on land granted to mining companies as concessions or licenses. Most galamseyers find gold in free metallic dust form or they process oxide or sulphide gold ore using liquid mercury.
The number of galamseyers in Ghana is unknown, but believed to be from 20,000 to 50,000. They mostly operate in the southern part of the country where there are substantial reserves of gold deposits, usually within the environs of the larger mining companies. As a group, they are economically disadvantaged; galamsey settlements are usually poorer than neighboring agricultural villages. They have high rates of accidents and are exposed to mercury poisoning from their crude processing methods. Many women are among the workers, acting mostly as porters for the miners.
In some cases, galamseyers are the first to discover and work extensive gold deposits before mining companies find out and take over. Galamsey workings are an indicator of the presence of gold.
In the francophone countries surrounding Ghana, similar local artisanal gold miners are called orpailleurs.
On November 13, 2009 a collapse occurred in an illegal, privately owned mine in Dompoase, in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. At least 18 workers were killed, including 13 women, who worked as porters for the miners. Officials described the disaster as the worst mine collapse in Ghanaian history. In addition, the dangers of galamsey in Ghana are not only limited to the health related issues faced during the illegal mining but also include the external damage caused to the land and water bodies. In March 2017, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, gave the galamsey operators/illegal miners a three-week ultimatum to stop their activities or be prepared to face the law.
- "Women die in Ghana mine collapse". BBC News. 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- Ansah, Marian Efe (2017-03-22). "Galamsey, pollution destroying water bodies in Ghana - Water Company". Ghana News. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
- Allotey, Godwin Akweiteh (2017-03-29). "Stop galamsey in 3 weeks or face the law - Amewu". Ghana News. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
- "Mining in Ghana – Golden future for the galamsey", World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Archived from the original.
- The Money Stone, a documentary film about the galamsey
- "Galamsey: Will Work for Gold" feature article from the Common Language Project