In West Africa, gold fueled the economic power of the Ashanti Empire, and gold is an emblem of status and royalty within Ghanaian society. Ghanaian tribal chiefs and others of high rank adorn themselves in layers of gold jewelry, carry gold walking sticks, and sometimes even sit upon gold stools. The British later colonized the area and called it The Gold Coast. Ghana became an independent nation in 1957, and gold continues to be a key commodity in the country’s economy, bringing over a billion dollars in foreign currency earnings to the country each year. Today, while Ghana is a politically stable country and considered a model among African nations, nearly thirty percent of the country’s people live under the poverty line, and the most impoverished are unskilled and illiterate rural dwellers with few employment options.
“Gold has always been a major mineral in Ghana. Our chiefs, our kings have always been bedecked in gold.” —Joyce Aryee, Chamber of Mines, Ghana