A galamsey is a local artisanal gold miner in Ghana, West Africa; such workers are known as orpailleurs in neighboring francophone nations. Galamseys are people who do gold mining independent of mining companies, digging small working (pits, tunnels and sluices) by hand.
Generally the galamseys can dig only to a limited depth, far shallower and smaller than commercial mining companies. Under current Ghana law, it is illegal for galamseys to dig on land granted to mining companies as concessions or licenses. Most galamseys find gold in free metallic dust form or they process oxide or sulphide gold ore using liquid mercury.
The number of galamseys in Ghana is unknown, but it is 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, galamseys 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 12, 2009 a collapse occurred in an illegal, privately owned mine in Dompoase, Ashanti Region, Ghana. At least 18 workers were killed, including 13 women, who worked as porters for the miners. Officials have described the disaster as the worst mine collapse in Ghanaian history.
- "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