Ghana plans to expel 166 Chinese nationals arrested for illegal gold mining and prostitution, while a county in China warned residents against going to the West African country to prospect for the metal.
Authorities in Ghana detained the suspects, some holding expired residential permits, between June 1 and yesterday in the country’s main gold-producing regions, Francis Palmdeti, head of public affairs for the Immigration Service, said in a phone interview.
“Repatriation will start once the migrants or the Chinese embassy pays for transportation costs,” Palmdeti said.
The arrests threaten to heighten tensions as Ghana seeks investment in natural resources. The Shanglin county government in southwest Guangxi province today issued a warning against gold mining in Ghana after people who hailed from the area were identified as among those arrested. Shanglin will help the miners return home by paying for their plane tickets, Xinhua News Agency reported.
In August 2011, Ghana approved a $3 billion loan, the biggest in the country’s history, from the China Development Bank for projects including a natural-gas plant.
“Ghana should administer their own loopholes and the Chinese government should do the same,” He Wenping, director of the African Research Section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said by phone. “When something happens, it should make them understand that they can’t just go anywhere that has gold because these countries’ laws are being carried out more strictly.”
The influx of illegal Chinese miners has angered Ghanaian farming communities who say their land and sources of drinking water are threatened by their activities. The Chinese use high-end industrial machinery including excavators to dig while Ghanaian small-scale miners mostly use shovels and pickaxes.
The Chinese are welcome as long as they “come through the regulatory framework,” Isaac Kojo Abraham, a senior public relations officer at Ghana’s Minerals Commission, said by phone. “If they come to do illegal mining, the nation loses the fees and taxes they would have paid for their activities. The negative environmental and social impact also becomes very high.”
President John Dramani Mahama said last month he had set up a task force to “bring sanity into the mining sector including my pledge to ensure that small-scale mining is reserved for Ghanaians as stated by the law.”
Mahama said authorities would seize equipment of miners without valid permits, arrest and prosecute illegal miners, and revoke mining licenses of Ghanaians who are illegally involved foreigners in their operations.
In Ghana’s Ashanti region, 124 Chinese were detained in a hotel raid on June 2, the Chinese embassy said in a statement on its website. China is paying “close attention” to the situation and advises its nationals to abide by local laws, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing in Beijing today.
About 20,000 to 30,000 Chinese are involved in mining in Ghana, he wrote in an editorial in the Global Times earlier today. Shanglin county said about 12,000 people from the county have engaged in gold mining in Ghana since a gold rush to the country started in 2006, according to Xinhua.
Mainland Chinese buyers have flocked to jewelry shops to buy gold this year after prices plunged by the most in three decades.
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