Ghana is increasingly employing geospatial technologies such as drones and other intelligent technologies in its mining sector. These technologies can streamline operational processes and reduces costs, while also enhancing efficiency and safety. Data analytics processes a wealth of generated data, enabling predictive maintenance and real-time monitoring for informed decision-making. Although many of these technologies are in their infancy in Ghana’s mining sector, many are already being used by the government and the private sector in a collaborative capacity in targeted and specific ways to streamline activities.

Digital Mapping

One challenge for the mining sector in Ghana is the collection, storage and interpretation of the vast amounts of data needed to survey the country’s mining sites. Ghana’s Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) developed its own open-source platform known as the Digital and Geo-Mapping System (D-GMS), which is an in-house geographic information system (GIS) that allows a real-time view of activities from selected mines. D-GMS employs tools such Google Earth and ArcGIS to create detailed online and offline maps of mining activities. It encompasses numerous mineral producers, including small-scale gold producers, quarries, salt producers, sand miners and lithium producers. Moving forwards, it can create the foundation for future advances in the field, such as the creation of a GIS database, mineral resource estimation, and mobile accessibility for monitoring and regulation.

Illegal mining is another key structural challenge for the sector. The activity causes deforestation, while improper extraction practices can pollute the soil and water supply. Meanwhile, the informal nature of the extraction can lead to lost revenue for the government and, consequently, local communities. Due to the remote nature of the many mining areas in Ghana, the usage of satellite technology can be among the most important in identifying and combatting illegal mining. National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite imagery, specifically the use of remote sensing when analysed by social scientists, can help the authorities at the local level combat such practices and at the national level help policymakers more effectively tackle the issue of illegal mining. It also reduces the need for field visits or costly flypasts with aircraft, enabling the reallocation of valuable human resources.

Drone Surveillance

Another crucial technology in aerial surveys and mapping is the use of drones. Large mining firms in Ghana use the craft to save time, money and resources while adding more accuracy in visualising and mapping terrains. This leads to optimised mining processes further down the line. During the extraction stage, they can inspect mining sites and deliver realtime data on numerous metrics, detect hazards, deliver small packages and even perform repetitive tasks such as the inspection of stockpiles of equipment.

Tech Solutions

Blockchain technology is being used in operations and extraction to improve traceability along the entire value chain. The blockchain platform Minexx, in conjunction with Solidaridad, a non-governmental organisation, has exported 11.6 g of gold traceable through Minexx’s blockchain technology platform from the Obeng mine, a small-scale open pit mine in Ghana’s Western Region. In 2022 the two organisations began working with various enterprises linked to the Obeng mine – such as gold traders and government officials – to roll out the blockchain platform. This has been done by the CRAFT Code requirements through the Minexx platform to trace gold from the mines to the international market. This improves transparency by giving assurance to consumers that the gold is coming from a responsible source. The significance of this innovation taking place in a small-scale mining context adds a crucial dimension to the adoption of intelligent technology in the industry. This is noteworthy because advancements in technology use are typically driven by larger mining firms, given their greater resources and expertise historically allocated to digitalisation efforts.