Business, Economics and Jobs

Ghana: 168 Chinese citizens arrested for illegal mining


A worker at AngloGold Ashanti's mine in Obuasi, Ghana, supervises the pouring of gold heated to around 2,900 Fahrenheit.


Luc Gnago

Over the past six days, officials in Ghana have arrested 168 Chinese citizens for illegally mining gold. In March, the government ejected 120 illegal Chinese miners.

Michael Amoako-Atta, spokesman for the Ghana immigration service, told the Guardian that each miner faces a fine of 2,000 Ghana cedis (about $887) and deportation.

Only Ghanaian citizens are allowed to operate small-scale mines in the country, the Financial Times reported.

Charles Wereko, spokesman for the ministry of lands and natural resources, told the Guardian that a Chinese-driven mining boom is devastating Ghana’s natural landscape. “Unlike Ghanaians, they have access to huge funds which they have been using to bring an enormous number of excavators into the country, which can destroy large areas of forest in just one day,” he said. “The rate of destruction is such that, if it is not stopped, Ghana will not have any forest left.”

There are an estimated 50,000 Chinese gold miners in Ghana, most of them from Shanglin county, the South China Morning Post reported.

“Only a very small percentage” of Chinese miners in Ghana are working legally, Toni Aubynn, chief executive of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, told the Financial Times. He said he knew of just two Chinese mining companies in Ghana – a bauxite mine and a gold mine – that have the proper licenses.

Raymond Xie, a former English teacher at a university in Guangxi who is now a co-owner of a gold mine in Obuasi, in Ghana’s Ashanti region, told the South China Morning Post that men from his hometown could make about 10,000 yuan a month in Ghana versus 1,000 yuan per month as a farmer in China.

"Ghana is so lonely and dangerous for Chinese but also full of opportunities and hope for people like us, who are young, ambitious but have no connections," the 41-year-old Xie said.

Xie told the South China Morning Post that the Chinese government only helps state-owned enterprises in Ghana, not independent miners, which places people like him in a precarious position. "We have to play a lone hand here," he said. "There's no official Chinese agency helping us to understand Ghana's laws, folk customs and industrial sectors.”

“We would like to build schools, churches and hospitals in local communities,” he added. “We would like to teach local people our skills…. In return, we could have long-term and peaceful co-operation in Ghana's mining sector.”

Ghana’s government officials don’t seem interested. "This operation is going to continue until all illegal miners are removed,” Wereko told the Guardian.

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