Environmental Crime and Illegal Ecologies (ILLECO)

How are Ghanaian minerals irregularly mined, smuggled and dumped and how does this challenge green transition initiatives? That is the question the ILLECO project seeks to answer through a combination of in-depth ethnographies, a transnational focus and cross-cutting legal and economic analysis.

Waste site (Ghana)
The Agbogbloshie waste site in Ghana. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee.

Green transition is a site of socio-political struggle. The implementation of positive environmental policies is resisted or counteracted by illegal means, making environmental crime a prime matter of concern for green transition. Taking a criminological approach to the issue this research project investigates the mineral challenge to climate smart solutions. More specifically, it investigates the irregular mining and movement of minerals in and from Ghana and charts their flow from extraction to depletion as they are used in the tech industry.

Ghana is a particularly apt point of departure. Not only is it home to one of the largest irregular mining industries in the world – ranging from small-scale artisanal ‘Galamsey’ mining to large-scale irregular Chinese mining exploitation. It also harbours some of the world’s largest and most worrisome e-waste dumping points and practices thus constituting a fieldsite from where both the detrimental effects of irregular mining, its social and political dynamics, and the way it connects beyond its place of origin become apparent.

While irregular mining, smuggling and dumping are matters of growing local and global concern, little is known about the larger embeddedness of such flows. ILLECO sets out to clarify how such crimes are engendered by social, economic and political dynamics in and beyond their point of extraction. More specifically, it does so by ‘following the minerals’ and tracing three key facets of such exploitation, namely, their irregular mining, their transnational smuggling, and their eventual dumping.










The ILLECO project will work in collaboration with the following esteemed colleagues:

Senior lecturer Dr. George M. Bob-Milliar, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and his research team

Assistant Professor Humphrey A. Asamoah, University of Copenhagen Department of Political Science

Associate Professor Pablo Selaya, Center for Global Criminology, and University of Copenhagen Department of Economics

Professor Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law

PhD Fellow Leonora Kleppa Stærfeldt, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law

PhD Fellow Julie Nygaard Solvang, Centre for Global Criminology and University of Copenhagen Department of Anthropology

In addition, the project will work with a strong advisory board consisting of:

Professor Lucie White, Harvard University

Professor Ragnhild Sollund, University of Oslo

Professor Ghassan Hage, University of Melbourne

Funded by:

The ILLECO project is funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Read about ILLECO and other projects funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark here.

Project: Environmental Crime and Illegal Ecologies (ILLECO)
Period:  2022-2027 


Name: Henrik Vigh

E-mail: hv@anthro.ku.dk

Telephone: +45 41 11 14 30