Satellite imagery exposes illegal gold mining in Ghana

Satellite imagery exposes illegal gold mining in Ghana Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory shows gold mining encroachment in the Upper Wassaw Forest Reserve in southwestern Ghana. Out of 28 protected areas in this region, Upper Wassaw has the most gold mining. 

Ghana is the seventh leading producer of gold in the world. According to NASA, large commercial companies mine the majority of it using heavy machinery, but about 35 percent is extracted through small-scale mines, many of which operate informally or without a valid license. Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country in West Africa. It spans along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, sharing borders with the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east, the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana covers an area of 238,535 km (92,099 sq mi), with a population of 31 million. It is the second-most populous country in West Africa, after Nigeria; and Accra is its capital and largest city. Satellite imagery exposes illegal gold mining in Ghana

“Local authorities may have knowledge about a specific area, but if the mines are scattered all over the place, then they are difficult to find,” said Foster Mensah, executive director at the Center for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) in Ghana. “The maps and products we can generate through satellite imagery help them see areas that need attention and intervention.”

The CERSGIS team has been working with Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency and its Forestry Commission to highlight areas where mining is affecting forest coverage and degradation. 

“It boils down to providing authorities information and data they did not have before, especially over a wide area,” said Mensah. “The satellite data is cost effective and gives them a head start on how to pinpoint mining hot spots that need immediate attention.”

The image was captured on April 30, 2020, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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