chinese mining companies in ghana

sustainability | free full-text | illicit chinese small-scale mining in ghana: beyond institutional weakness? | html

sustainability | free full-text | illicit chinese small-scale mining in ghana: beyond institutional weakness? | html

All articles published by MDPI are made immediately available worldwide under an open access license. No special permission is required to reuse all or part of the article published by MDPI, including figures and tables. For articles published under an open access Creative Common CC BY license, any part of the article may be reused without permission provided that the original article is clearly cited.

Feature Papers represent the most advanced research with significant potential for high impact in the field. Feature Papers are submitted upon individual invitation or recommendation by the scientific editors and undergo peer review prior to publication.

The Feature Paper can be either an original research article, a substantial novel research study that often involves several techniques or approaches, or a comprehensive review paper with concise and precise updates on the latest progress in the field that systematically reviews the most exciting advances in scientific literature. This type of paper provides an outlook on future directions of research or possible applications.

Editors Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.

the big problem with chinese gold mining in ghana

the big problem with chinese gold mining in ghana

China continues to seek out rare mineral resources in Africa to supply the countrys ever-growing consumption needs. By 2011, Chinas investment in Africas mining industry had grown twenty-five times from 2011, reaching figures of $15.6 billion.

As the worlds largest user of natural resources, the country lacks sufficient domestic natural resources, according to a paper published by the School of Oriental and African Studies at The University of London. This lack of sufficient domestic natural resources caused by China depleting its own mineral resources has driven China to invest overseas in low and middle income countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the paper says.

In 2013, the Ghanaian government raided many small-scale gold mining farms all over the country. Mining farms and equipment were burned, and 5,000 Chinese workers were deported. The Ghanaian government claimed that these workers were illegal, under the Small-Scale Gold Mining Act of 1989. One Chinese investor, however, claimed that the Chinese workers filled in the correct immigration paperwork.

Today, Ghana still operates many gold mines run by Chinese investors. According to, the Government of China empowered and encouraged a number of domestic state-owned and private companies to actively pursue mining deals throughout the world.

China continues to drain global gold inventory, Bullionstar reported in 2015. In total, 2102 metric tonnes of gold were withdrawn from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) in 2014, the SGE being the best indicator for Chinese wholesale demand.

By 2017, China remains the largest producer of gold in the world, mining 440 metric tonnes in 2017. However, Chinas gold production has decreased, because of what is suspected to be increased environmental regulations.

The emergence of China as a global player challenges the pre-existing dominance of the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries and will continue to be a crucial force for global change in coming decades, Dr Urban writes. The implications of Chinas rise will be most significant for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but the outcomes will also affect the understanding of the process of development.

Gold mines built by Chinese investors have destroyed water bodies in the heart of Ghana, Africas second-largest gold producer. River pollution caused by digging up the surrounding land areas have led to deforestation, dying fish and undrinkable water. Some rivers have dried out completely, and deforestation has impoverished many local farmers.

When Ghana signed the 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury at the UN General Assembly, the country aimed to minimize exposure of mercury to its population. Despite this, many small-scale mining operations continue to use mercury when mining gold.

In the month of April, 2019, Ghana earned $1,391,020,000in exports, led by gold, which represents 48.7% of Ghanas total exports. Ghanas top import origins are China, the United States, India, Belgium, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom.

illegal chinese gold miners blamed for pollution, violence in ghana

illegal chinese gold miners blamed for pollution, violence in ghana

Tensions between Ghana and China have escalated in the past weeks as Africas second largest gold producer announced last month the suspension of licensesfor small-scale operations, mostly run by Chinese businessmen.

It has also exacerbated long-dragged resentment from locals towards who they blame for the devastating consequences of the illicit activity, which last year contributed to the loss of $2.3 billion in revenue for the state, data from Ghanas Ministry of Lands and Natural Resourcesshows. In comparison, Ghanas legal gold exports brought $3.2 billion last year to the government coffers.

While the countrys new President Nana Akufo-Addo has vowed that no particular group or nationality will be targeted in the governments clampdown on illegal gold miners, some of his ministers are already pointing fingers at Chinese nationals and their dubious mining practices, who they blame for destructing protected forests and cocoa farms, as well as polluting water streams, reports:

In many cases the mines are officially owned by Ghanaians who have the correct permits but in practice are run by Chinese businessmen who are violating regulations in their attempt to extract gold as quickly as possible.

According to Washington-based Global Financial Integrity, focused on helping reduce illicit financial flows through research and reports, there is increasing evidence of undocumented Chinese miners who enter Ghana from neighbouring countries who employ arms to secure their participation in the illegal activity, which leads to regular clashes with locals.

Facing mounting tensions, violence, and pollution, Ghana has stepped up the arrest and deportation of those illegal foreign miners in recent years. In June and July 2013 alone more than 4,500 illegal Chinese gold miners were deported. More recently, in August 2016, the government expelled about 30 illegal miners, the majority of them Chinese.

Ghana relies on China for billions of dollars in loans and commerce, as the country is its biggest trading partner. The crackdown on illegal foreign miners, experts agree, threatens to make the situation increasingly difficult for Ghana, particularly as the illicit extraction of gold has become an economic lifeline in the countrys rural areas.

I was working in Ghana in an area where a great deal of the illegal mining was being carried out.Happened to meet up with a couple of local farmers one evening when I when I was out who told me how these Chinese miners simply entered their land and just started digging it up and destroying it as they went. The authorities did nothing to stop them as my farmer friends guessed that they had received some form of bribe. I have seen evidence of cars with bullet/shotgun holes in them when owners had tried to approach the Chinese to raise concerns about their practices. These Chinese DO arm themselves, they DO shoot because they believe ( in some areas) that they can do so because they are somehow protected. They are despicable people for sure.

Thrust me. The Chinese if left unchecked will do the same thing they did to their own country. Make it a garbage dump site. I lived in China for 7 and 1/2 years and travelled all over the country. Its a mess. They are no different than any third world country. Pollution is common practice.

galamsey in ghana and china's illegal gold rush asia by africa

galamsey in ghana and china's illegal gold rush asia by africa

Three, two, one, breach! Ghanaian soldiers smash down the door to a ramshackle, single-story building in a rural mining community. As security forces pour into the dimly lit room, a dozen illegal gold miners scramble for the exits as the soldiers close in. The room is soon a cacophony of voices, with the English of the soldiers mixing with the Cantonese of the miners. The group of miners is quickly rounded up and led out of the building to waiting military vehicles, just one of many groups of illegal miners being rounded up across Ghana.

Despite the efforts of the Ghanaian government, these raids barely dent the number - some 50,000 - of irregular Chinese migrants that have traveled to Ghana in recent years, spurred by sky high gold prices and lured by Ghanas unprotected mineral wealth. The narrative of Chinese involvement in Africa is typically portrayed as a top-down one in which state owned firms monopolize the limelight. The phenomenon of illegal artisanal mining - known as galamsey, derived from the phrase gather them and sell - in Ghana demonstrates the collective impact of individual Chinese migrants.

Such are the concerns about Chinese miners in Ghana that Ghanas leader, President Nana Akufo-Addo spoke to Nikkei Asian Review in January 2019, stating that Ghana and China have a strong relationship; however, we have a big problem [with] Chinese involvement in illegal mining activity in Ghana [and] we have decided to do something about it. This is not the first time that Akufo-Addo has spoken out about the threat posed by illegal Chinese gold miners, having made galamsey a key campaign issue during the 2016 election. Akufo-Addo has spent significant political capital on the galamsey issue, arguing that failing to tackle illegal mining would be a betrayal of the trust imposed on me [by the electorate].

Gold comprises a significant portion of Ghanas exports: Ghana is Africas second largest (and the worlds tenth largest) gold exporter. Such is the scale of this problem that estimates of the amount of gold leaving the country for China outstrips government revenue from mining, with $2.3 billion worth of gold exiting the country in 2016. Concerns about Chinese miners illegally exporting gold to the UAE have also emerged, with Akufo-Addo noting that there was a $5 billion discrepancy between trade statistics and actual gold exports in 2017.

Galamsey is not a new phenomenon in Ghana, as an estimated 200,000 Ghanaians (in turn supporting some three million people) are believed to make their living from artisanal small scale mining (ASM). Whereas Ghanaian law allows land owners to mine their own property, as well as sublet to artisanal miners, many small scale miners also operate outside the law, working on public lands or in remote regions. Successive Ghanaian governments have tried to find these miners jobs in the formal mining sector, yet galamsey has stubbornly remained an important element in Ghanas economic makeup.

Historically, any environmental degradation or detriment on the formal economy from galamsey has been limited by the scale and techniques of artisanal miners. The small scale of these mining operations and the reliance on hand tools prevented ASM (both in its legal and illegal manifestations) from unduly undermining both the formal mining sector and wider economy. This all changed with the arrival of Chinese miners seeking their fortune.

Economic liberalization in China and the greater opportunities for international travel and work available to Chinese citizens contributed to a host of Chinese migrant workers flocking to Africa to make their fortunes in a range in industries. Of particular interest was - and is - the gold mining sector in Ghana, with its uneven legal enforcement and ample gold reserves. Overall, some 50,000 individuals from China have made the journey to Ghana over the past fifteen years.

Interestingly, almost all the Chinese involved in galamsey in Ghana stem from just once county in the Guangxi autonomous region (home to the Zhuang people), in southern China. Dubbed the Shanglin Gang after the eponymous county with a long history of gold mining, these Chinese migrants brought their expertise and mining techniques to Ghana, radically disrupting the local mining scene.

Having acquired loans from family and community members, thousands of Chinese miners purchased mining equipment and shipped it to Ghana, following suit with enough cash to cover living expenses, bribes and other expenditures. This was facilitated by cheap international shipping rates, and the fact that Shanglin is home to three companies selling mining equipment internationally, primarily to overseas Shanglin miners. In 2004, Ghana registered some 6,000 Chinese arrivals, yet this number quickly jumped to 18,300 in 2012 and 20,300 in 2013. The actual numbers are probably higher, as the aforementioned tallies do not account for illegal entrants, notably from Togo where Chinese citizens enjoy visas-on-arrival. Such was the influx of Chinese miners that it is estimated that over 2,000 illegal mining operations had been established by 2013.

This influx of Chinese miners catalyzed the informal and black economies in Ghana, as newly affluent miners flaunted their wealth. In many communities food shortages emerged, in part due to the loss of farmland from increased mining activity but also from Chinese miners buying up local supplies for use by the multitude of new mining compounds which mushroomed across Ghana. Fuel shortages were also experienced as miners bought up local fuel supplies to satiate the thirst of their mining machines. These machines in turn allowed Chinese operators to greatly increase their yields to such as degree that labelling their activities as small-scale mining (as opposed to more traditional large scale operations) became increasingly inaccurate.

The arrival of the Chinese also saw them effectively out compete existing artisanal miners, leading to the loss of livelihoods and forcing many Ghanaian miners to seek more precarious employment at Chinese mines. With unemployment rates for 15-24 year olds hovering around fifty percent, there is no shortage of workers willing to risk their lives.

The arrival of many newly affluent single men has led to a marked increase in prostitution in and around mining compounds, as well as a surge in drug traffic as African workers at Shanglin operations increasingly rely on cocaine and methamphetamine to give them the energy required to endure the harsh working conditions. The riches being extracted by Chinese operators has also seen a surge in armed robberies as thieves target mining operations and gold shipments, a trend which has in turn created a proliferation of small arms in mining areas as Chinese operators seek to protect themselves. The fact that many of these weapons are purchased from corrupt police officers (complete with forged documentation) only worsens this trend.

Mutual suspicion, poor working conditions (albeit with higher than average pay) and abuse by mine operators has invariably led to unrest and violence. In 2012, a sixteen year old Chinese miner was killed during a crackdown by security forces targeting illegal miners, and in 2013 anti-Chinese violence coincided with a national sweep targeting Chinese miners initiated by then-president John Mahama.

Unsurprisingly, the arrest of 150 - and eventual deportation of some 4,500 - Chinese citizens caught the attention of Beijing. As disturbing pictures of the situation in Ghana started to spread across Weibo - they depicted wounded Chinese civilians and their houses amidst blazing fires. While the Chinese government sought the release of the miners, the reaction from Chinese netizens was mixed, with some unsurprised by the violence given how poorly many Chinese miners in Ghana treat locals. It was during this time that a post attributed to angel investor Hu Jinghua (@ - also attributed to Weibo user Washed not Brainwashed () - whether the two posters are the same person is unclear) began making the rounds online. Hu claimed he lived and worked in Ghana and gave a first-hand account of the abuse and decadence of many of his fellow countrymen.

When the day comes that large-scale anti-Chinese incidents erupt in Ghana, it surely cannot be taken as an unlucky accident, writes Hu. Thousands of Shanglin people in Ghana display abusive and discriminatory behaviour towards black people on a daily basis [...For instance,] there are about ten dogs at the construction site and they get fed better than the black people who only get half a fish per person every day whilst the dogs can eat unlimited numbers of fish.

Alongside familiar concerns about employee exploitation and abuse, the cultural differences between Ghanaians and Chinese miners helped create a recipe for disaster. Quoting Karsten Giese and Alena Thiels 2012 article The Vulnerable Other: Distorted Equity in Chinese-Ghanaian Employment relations, Whats on Weibo writes as follows:

The vulnerability of both Chinese employers and Ghanian employees is central to the problem. The Chinese are vulnerable because they are in a foreign and possibly hostile environment with a different language and culture, while there is a lot at stake for them in terms of financial investment. They expect honesty, proactivity and dedication from their workers in order for their mutual relation to be successful. In exchange, they pay Ghanaians wages that often exceed the local average. The Ghanaians that work for the Chinese, on the other hand, are vulnerable because they are overall economically marginalized and uneducated young men.

They come from a cultural background where ones employer is also supposed to be ones guardian and protector. Employment relationships are characterized by the employer taking care of his workers in terms of fees or gifts in order to build on long-term loyalty; the employment relation, in this way, somewhat resembles a family relationship.

The Chinese employers do not get what they want from their Ghanaian workers (hard work and loyalty) because they do not give them what they want (symbolic gifts or extra fees). This results in structural dissatisfaction; a derailed relationship where discrimination and violence eventually emerges as the consequence of complete mutual misunderstanding.

The 2013 crackdown by the Ghanaian government did reduce the number of Chinese miners in the country, but in the long-term it merely changed Chinese migration patterns. Whereas prior to 2013 many miners sought to establish long term operations in Ghana, after 2013 they began instead to follow a three year cycle. During the first year they invest their capital and build mines, in the second year they recoup their costs, and in the third year they make a profit and then return home. Moreover, it can be argued that rather than government intervention, the prime reason behind the decline in the number of Chinese miners circa 2013 is the impact of international gold prices.

In April 2001, gold stood at $349 per ounce, yet by August 2011 gold had reached an all time high of $1,911 per ounce as the global financial crisis created vast uncertainty. One Chinese miner speaking to researchers in 2014 noted that in four to five years, a lot of Chinese millionaires, even billionaires were created as a result. The Chinese business daily, 21st Century Business Herald has quoted earnings of up to $500 million for some miners, with the purchase of Ferraris and use of gold bars as gifts taking off in Shanglin. To give an example of the kind of return miners could expect, at the height of the gold rush a team of eight could make a gross daily profit of some $15,000.

Chinese migration to Ghana nicely mirrors skyrocketing gold prices, and by 2013 the gold bubble had already burst, with prices dropping from around $1,663 in January 2013 to $1,234 by June of that year. While still high, the drop in gold prices took some of the wind out of gold fever that had taken hold of Chinese migrants, with late-comers facing lower prices, increased government scrutiny, and more importantly, the prime sites already occupied by other Chinese operations.

The post-crackdown decrease in Chinese mining operations was not a lasting one, as many operators already in the country weathered the storm. Chinese equipment and techniques have also been adopted by Ghanaian galamsey workers, thus further perpetuating the growth of ASM as a percentage of the Ghanaian mining sector. ASM accounted for just seven percent of the mining sector in Ghana in 1995, only to grow (with the exception of a contraction in 2015) to thirty-eight percent, according to the latest figures from 2016.

Despite previous crackdowns and a drop in global gold prices, the problem of Chinese involvement in galamsey continues to plague Ghana, so much so that in 2017 President Akufo-Addo launched Operation Vanguard, a 400 person task force operating in southern Ghana. Part of the ruling New Patriotic Partys five year galamsey eradication project, Operation Vanguard is targeting Chinese miners with renewed vigour, as previous sweeps had only managed to capture low level (and easily replaceable) workers with no knowledge of wider galamsey networks. Consequently, the high profile arrest of Asia (Aisha) Huang, the so-called Galamsey Queen and four of her compatriots in 2017 made national headlines, with Huang implicated in facilitating illegal Chinese mining and allegedly enjoying connections to high profile politicians.

Alongside Huang, over 1,000 Chinese were swept up in Operation Vanguard, prompting a terse response from Beijing, a prominent provider of loans to Ghana. Calling for the prompt release of those in custody and for Ghanaian media to provide 'more balanced reporting on the issue, Beijing warned about the potential damage to bilateral ties going forward. Chinas response was met with indignation from both the public and within the Ghanaian government, with Ghanas information minister stating that the Chinese threat or whatever does not bother me in the slightest.

Ghanaian satirical artist Bright Tetteh Ackwerh also took on China with his piece We Dey Beg - or We are begging - a cartoon showing Chinese leader Xi Jinping pouring dirty water from a Ming vase into cups held by President Akufo-Addo and the countrys minister of natural resources, while the Chinese ambassador gleefully waves a gold bar. Ackwerhs cartoon even caught the eye of Chinese embassy which complained about it (among other things) in a letter to the minister of natural resources. Ackwerh, who cites Ai Weiwei as an influence, remained unfazed, producing a follow up cartoon (depicting a host of Chinese figures brandishing fists at President Akufo-Addo holding a Stop Galamsey sign behind his back) called Them Threaten after China had voiced its displeasure and Ghanas information minister responded in defiance.

Despite concerns from China, Ghana has continued to forge ahead with its anti-galamsey efforts, with the government implementing a moratorium on the issuing of new mining licences and the countrys chief justice designating fourteen courts to hear illegal mining cases in an effort to expedite case processing. In April 2017, the government also issued a three week ultimatum, warning illegal miners to stop their operations or face prosecution: satellite imagery showed that over 500 excavators and some 1,000 dredging machines were voluntarily removed from galamsey sites.

Ghanaian civil society has also jumped on the anti-galamsey bandwagon, with media outlet CitiFM launching the #StopGalamseyNow campaign and key national media houses banding together to establish the Media Coalition Against Galamsey. The local film industry has even made a movie, Ghana Galamsey, where illegal mining is key to the plot. Akufo-Addo has also found support from Ghanas religious leaders who have expressed willingness to preach the evils of galamsey to their congregations, with the 2017 Catholic bishops conference in Ghana issuing a statement condemning illegal gold mining.

More recently, a video of a sermon by Bishop Joseph Francis Kweku Essien of Wiawso went viral in which he speaks out against Chinese influence in the country. We are in captivity in the sense that, a country like ours, a country which mines gold [...] There are assemblymen and MPs [...] there are chiefs and they see it. It is like nobody can talk about it. For what gain we are getting only God knows. So we are slaves in our own land [sic].

Despite initiatives such as Operation Vanguard, Ghanas efforts at tackling Chinese involvement in galamsey are being undermined by inconsistent laws and the corrosive influence of corruption. For instance, whereas Ghanaian law prohibits foreigners from mining plots smaller than twenty-five acres, many Chinese galamsey miners reach informal deals with local landowners with the former mining the plot and sharing the proceeds with the latter. Ghanaian law also forbids the dredging of rivers, yet many Chinese operations (especially in rural / remote areas) are actively engaged in river dredging, bribing local officials to look the other way. Water pollution from illegal dredging is rising at an alarming rate, with the Ghana Water Company warning in March 2017 that the country would soon have to being importing water for consumption if illegal mining activities were not curtailed.

Similarly, despite being designated a protected area, the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, which boasts some of the highest biodiversity on the planet, is being threatened by illegal gold and bauxite mining, as galamsey operations expand into the parks interior; a trend facilitated by support from impoverished local communities seeking jobs. Deforestation and water pollution from mining are polluting the rivers that run through the park, including those serving as water sources to downstream communities, including the five million people of Greater Accra.

The inconsistent enforcement of this law, coupled with the type of corruption endemic in the police force mentioned above severely undermines the central governments ability to curb galamsey activity. For instance, only twelve of the approximately 1,000 Chinese apprehended during Operation Vanguard have actually been charged, and the quick release of many of these detained individuals raises suspicions of police corruption. One Chinese miner arrested in 2017 not only allegedly escaped from jail but even had his impounded car returned to him shortly thereafter.

Another legal loophole is the fact that Ghanaian legislation does not require gold dealers to guarantee that their stock is legally sourced. This rather glaring loophole exists due to Ghanas long history with local galamsey miners, many of whom are poor and resort to illegal mining to survive. By not putting the burden of proof on dealers, this arrangement has allowed local artisanal miners to make a living as well as for Ghanaian traders to increase national gold exports. Where a problem arises is that the mechanized nature of Chinese mining results in far greater quantities of gold being exported, often by Chinese middlemen from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, who in turn ship the gold to China or India.

Known as the Gold Coast during British rule, Ghana is no stranger to rapacious foreigners making off with the nations natural resources - the Chinese are only the latest incarnation of this trend. Enticed by Ghanas rich gold reserves, encouraged by booming gold prices and weak law enforcement, tens of thousand of Chinese migrants - almost all from Shanglin county in Guangxi - traveled to Ghana to seek their fortunes.

Bringing a legacy of alluvial gold mining and an army of heavy machinery, early arrivals soon reaped eye-watering sums, with billions of dollars leaving the country for China. The arrival of Chinese migrants disrupted traditional small scale miners - both legal and illegal - soon out-competing them, only to later recruit many of their former competitors as Chinese mining operations became the only game in town in many communities throughout Ghana.

Aided by the cooperation of local landowners and corrupt security services, Chinese galamsey miners easily circumvent Ghanaian law, massively increasing the amount of gold ferreted out of the country. While the government has stepped up its efforts to counter illegal mining, much still needs to be done to prevent Accras efforts from being subverted from within by politicians and police in the pocket of galamsey miners. The social unrest and environmental degradation birthed by Chinese galamsey operations ought be enough of a wake-up call, and while many Ghanaian civil actors are taking this issue seriously, they are being let down by the pernicious corruption in the country.

the dilemma of chinese gold miners in ghana | black livity china

the dilemma of chinese gold miners in ghana | black livity china

Ghana is endowed with vast reserves of natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable. As the second largest gold miner in Africa, behind South Africa, Ghana is famous for its gold production and was once named the Gold Coast because of the abundance of gold. Between 1493-1600, Ghana accounted for about 36% of the total world gold output. Also, between the first documentation of gold mining in 1493 up to 1997, Ghana extracted an estimated 80 million ounces of gold. The extraction of gold in Ghana is thus, an age-old phenomenon which has been carried out by local people using artisanal techniques known in local parlance as galamsey.

A key feature of Ghanas gold is that small-scale mining accounts for about 30% of total gold output, employing about 3 million people directly and indirectly. The small-scale mining sector was legalized in 1989 for citizens while explicitly forbidding the involvement of foreigners. The legalization was done to formalize and regularize the sector for the benefit of Ghanaians by way of providing employment and contributing to the local economy. But since 2010, Ghana has become an attractive destination for foreign gold mercantilists, particularly those from China.

The relevant Ghanaian laws explicitly forbid foreigners from engagement in small-scale mining. The Minerals and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) [Section 83(a)] states that: A license for small-scale mining operation shall not be granted to a person unless that person is a citizen of Ghana.

The issue of Chinese gold miners in Ghana sparked national tension in 2013 when the London based Guardian Newspaper and the BBC News documented a perceived broad scale of illegal Chinese gold mining activities in Ghana, alongside allegations of human rights abuses. The media sensationalism of the issue led to strong opposition and resentment from the Ghanaian public, despite the significant economic impact of Chinese involvement including the massive jump in the production of gold from small-scale mines due to the introduction of new technology and machinery by Chinese that has transformed the small-scale mining sector. Notwithstanding, Chinese miners have since at times fallen into a direct violent confrontation with local miners who feel displaced by the perceived sophisticated method employed by the Chinese.

The resentment towards Chinese is manifested in the 2016 Afrobarometer survey on the perception of China in Africa, which revealed that the perception of China as resource extractor is highly dominant in Ghana than any other African country. There has been resentment in the past with Chinese involvement in other gold rushes throughout history, notably, in the United States and Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries both of which resulted in violent confrontations and strict immigration policies. It is also reminiscent of Chinese migrants to South Africa after the discovery of gold and diamonds in the 1870s and 1880s. The parallel contemporary trend in Ghana is equally alarming as sensationalism of the issue and the often demonization of Chinese in the media as invaders due to the activities of a small number of Chinese miners has led to rising in general resentment towards Chinese.

According to a report by the 21st Century Business Herald, translated from Chinese to English by the China-Africa Project, a unique eye for gold and the fancy stories of rags-to-riches of Chinese miners has been the primary motivator and driving force of Chinese arrival to Ghana for mining. A study by Crawford et al. in 2015 entailing the arrival from 2006 into the central area of alluvial gold mining in Ghana revealed that these small group of miners that have become known as the Shanglin gang came predominantly from the Shanglin County in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Province of China. However, the first phase of small-scale Chinese miners to Ghana was in 1998 that comprised a group of miners from Hunan Province of China. The Hunan group expanded to around 300 miners and was in Ghana from 1998 to 2005, but did not make much profit and their business venture collapsed. The South China Morning Post in a 2013 report estimated that more than 50,000 Chinese gold miners (mostly from Shanglin County) have been to Ghana since 2005. The 21st Century Business Herald report in May 2013 also referred to as many as 50,000 Shanglin County native gold miners alone in Ghana.

The New York Times in 2013 reported that concerned residents of Shanglin have blamed the arrival on the local government for shirking its responsibility after years of encouraging the Ghanaian gold rush. Likewise, many Ghanaians also blame the government of Ghana for its weak immigration policy allowing the arrival of the miners. A detailed report by the Ghana Bureau of National Investigation in 2017, however, cited extensive collaboration between the miners and some chiefs and political figures in Ghana. The Bureaus dossier is perhaps most revealing as it in part explains the arrival of Chinese in the sector that by law, is reserved for locals.

The menace of illegal mining by both locals and foreign involvement (mainly Chinese) first became a contentious issue between 2012 and 2013. By 2013, the involvement of Chinese citizens had grown to such proportions it triggered a persistent hostile media coverage of conflicts between Chinese miners and local miners, as well as an unprecedented rate of environmental degradation. The media sensationalism on the issue led to the formation of an Inter-Ministerial Task Force in 2013 to deal with the canker. The military-style task force was primarily aimed at flushing out foreign miners, and by mid-July 2013, about 4,592 Chinese nationals had been deported, as well as small numbers of other foreign nationals.

The campaign died naturally partly due to ineffective enforcement measures and low public and media attention afterward. A change of government in January 2017 ushered in perhaps the most vocal and unprecedented anti-illegal small-scale mining campaign in the country after almost four years of public silence, and since the failed first Inter-Ministerial anti-illegal mining task force in 2013. Championed by a Media Coalition (comprising the major media organizations in the country), and supported by bipartisan members of the legislative body of Ghana (parliament), as well as various Civil Society organizations and Faith-based groups, the government of Ghana was pressured to take immediate action.

In response, the government of Ghana launched another anti-illegal mining campaign. Yet another Inter-Ministerial task force was inaugurated by the President of Ghana with a mandate to enforce a ban on all forms of small-scale mining and develop a comprehensive strategy to guide the activities of small-scale miners. The task force in August 2017 inaugurated a heavily armed Joint Military Police Taskforce dubbed Operation Vanguard to clamp down on illegal small-scale mining in any form throughout the country. The task force in precisely a year later (August 2018) had conducted a total of 1,179 operations with over 1,370 arrests including 247 Chinese nationals. The media campaign and sensationalism got some foreign diplomatic backing from the Australian and the Israeli governments. Andrew Barnes (the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana), while acknowledging the economic, environmental, and health problems associated with illegal mining activities, applauded the campaign with a promised to support the effort. Likewise, the Israeli Ambassador to Ghana (Ami Mel) in a statement declared Israels steadfast support and commitment to the ongoing campaign against illegal mining, promising the State of Israel will help Ghana recover from the devastation wrecked the environment by the menace.

The media sensationalism of Chinese involvement has become a worrying issue for both China and Ghana regarding their future relations. The official admonition by the Chinese Embassy in Ghana to the media and the Ghanaian government in April 2017 perhaps sums up how the issue of Chinese mining activities could affect the bilateral relations between the two countries. This diplomatic concern climaxes the contentious issue of Chinese mining activities in Ghana. The argument and a deep-seated concern by many ordinary Ghanaian are that the presence of the Chinese miners in the Small-scale mining sector reserved for locals is as a result of Ghanaian government unwillingness to act due to fears over its relations with China a country that has become Ghanas biggest trading partner and essential aid and investment partner over the years.

The arrest and deportation of several Chinese mine workers, as well as a police crackdown resulting in the death of a 16-year-old Chinese miner in October 2012, prompted the Chinese government to voice its serious concerns and reservations. A further series of arrests and deportations of Chinese miners in 2013 and a notable report by Chinas state-owned China Daily in June 2013 concerning the detention and deportation of about 124 Chinese miners prompted yet another diplomatic concern between the Chinese and Ghanaian governments. A New York Times report noted a warning issued by the Chinese government regarding how the mining issue is a disharmony with the bilateral relations between Ghana and China.

In a nutshell, the issue of Chinese miners has provided a stern test to the bilateral relations between the two countries that have long been considered as a springboard for Chinas African policy. Concerns and the attempts to resolve the issue diplomatically is not new. In April 2013 and May 2013, two important meetings were held between the government of Ghana and two separate delegations from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Province of China to deal with the tension that threatens to mar the excellent bilateral relations between the two. The parties committed to establishing a high-powered working committee to examine the circumstances that underpin the influx of Chinese miners in Ghana to fashion out an integrated roadmap to bring an end to the menace.

However, after the repatriation in July 2013 of over 4,500 Chinese nationals in a series of security swoops on unauthorized gold mine sites, the government of Ghana became skeptical of retaliatory measures from China. Reports of new tightening visa rules at the Chinese Embassy was seen as a counter-reaction by China. Although China rejected the idea that it has taken retaliation actions, the government still wondered whether such difficulties including the inability to access a $3 billion loan facility granted by the China Development Bank was related to the events surrounding Chinese miners.

A renewed series of further arrests involving Chinese nationals and the seizure of high-end mining equipment in 2017 led to an emergency meeting between the representatives of Ghana and China to discuss how both governments could collectively deal with the role and activities of Chinese nationals engaged in illegal mining. However, the Chinese mission not enthused with the vicious anti-Chinese sentiments in the media landscape issued a strongly worded statement cautioning Ghana and Ghanaian media. The statement noted the negative repercussion such as rising anti-Chinese and critical media reports could have on Ghana-China bilateral relations. In response, the Ghanaian government reiterated its commitment to ensuring robust relations between the two countries while reassuring Chinese investors that Ghana remains keen to encourage economic cooperation. The government subsequently caution against the creation of a non-existent diplomatic row between Ghana and China in the wake of the campaign. Ghana further maintained that the issue is not anti-Chinese campaign, but a warning that Chinese miners should respect the laws of Ghana.

China is Africas most significant economic partner and a critical alternative aid and investment source. However, media sensationalism of Chinese resources interest has exposed Chinas presence in Africa to skepticism and increasing resentment from some Africans. In Ghana, despite the encouraging Ghana-China bilateral relations over the years, the issue of Chinese small-scale miners has not only increased public resentment toward Chinese but at times presented tension and setback in the bilateral relations between the two countries. The bottom line, however, is that Chinas influence and interest in Ghana regarding Chinese investments and aid has made it difficult for the menace involving Chinese nationals to be dealt with appropriately considering how strategic the economic cooperation between the two countries is at the current stage. Most importantly, the potential repercussions that a sharp reprimand from either side may have on their bilateral relationship is in line with the strategic interest of both sides.

Related Equipments