The contentious issue of illegal small-scale mining in Ghana by Chinese workers exploded in the last few days as Ghanaian police detained more than 100 workers in a raid that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old Chinese boy, leading to outrage and protests in China.
The raid occurred on Oct. 11 and was just the latest conflict in an issue that has been brewing for months as an influx of Chinese have poured into Ghana to take advantage of the rise in gold prices to do small-scale mining, which is illegal for foreigners. While there are several large mining companies operating in Ghana, including the U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp., an estimated 30 percent of Ghana’s gold output comes from a million small-scale miners with shovels and picks. The country’s Chamber of Mines has asked the Ghanaian government to crack down on these small scale operations—leading to raids like the one that resulted in the death of the Chinese boy.
“We demand the Ghanaian side investigate the case and punish the perpetrators as soon as possible and inform the Chinese side of relevant information about the investigation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing in Beijing today.
According to the embassy statement, Chinese ambassador Gong Jianzhong, who met with Ghanaian officials, called for compensation to the family of the victim.
Ghanaian Interior Minister William Kwasi Aboah told Bloomberg News that by phone the operation was conducted jointly by the military and police, and that the Chinese citizens “have immigration issues.”
Ghana’s inspector-general of police set up a committee in August with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Minerals Commission to investigate illegal mining. About 20 Chinese miners arrested without residential and work permits will be tried soon, said Frank Koffi, operations director of the Criminal Investigation Department. Thirty-eight were deported last month, according to a Sept. 30 Chinese embassy statement.
Last July this year, residents of Amansie West in the Ashanti Region clashed with Chinese illegal miners who were accused of terrorizing the residents with “heavy ammunitions.” Some of the Chinese miners were arrested and charged with causing harm.
But a report on Chinese Daily says that illegal agents lure Chinese workers to Ghana with the promise of great profit, but once they get there they discover they’ve been swindled, with these locals agents sometimes selling the same mine to different buyers or selling fake mining contracts.