161 illegal miners in Ghana face deportation

The fallout in Ghana from illegal mining by the Chinese continues as police, immigration and intelligence officials arrested over 160 Chinese citizens since June 1, and they intend on deporting them.

“It’s an ongoing operation,” immigration official in the Ghanaian capital Accra, Michael Amoako-Atta said.

He added the Chinese miners went to Ghana through ‘unapproved routes’ or overstayed visas for the purpose of illegal mining. The Government will continue its vigilance ‘until we are clear that such kind of illegalities have ceased’, he said.

Small-scale illegal mining activities from Chinese citizens have destroyed the countryside in the West African country, polluting water supplies and peppering it with holes, The New York Times reported.

Some believe the Chinese are using Ghanaians as facades to carry out small-scale mining.

Foreigners are normally banned from practising small-scale mining in the country.

The arrested Chinese citizens were seen on a bus on Thursday as they travelled from the Ghanaian immigration headquarters to the court hearing.

The jail cell at the headquarters was filled with illegal miners who gathered around the cell’s one door to look out at people walking by.

A senior Chinese embassy official Yu Jie said the embassy had urged the Ghanaian government to give the arrested miners their legal rights and requested Ghana security agencies to enforce laws.

Many of the illegal miners are from Guangxi and authorities there gave a statement on Thursday pleading with residents not to go to Ghana and offering train tickets home to miners there.

One Chinese miner had been taking refuge in a Chinese company in Obuasi, a major gold-mining town in Ghana for the last few weeks.

“If we all go back home, the economy of Shanglin will go backward at least 20 years,” said the miner only known as Li.

“Who dares to be still operating the mine? We’ve all closed and been looking for places to hide.”

“The Ghanaian authorities hunted us down in Chinese restaurants and hotels. Once they caught us, they took all our cash and cellphones. They were just like robbers, really violent.”

Li was also unhappy with the way the Chinese government dealt with him.

“Our phone calls to the Chinese Embassy in Ghana always went unanswered.”

The African Labor Research Network wrote a report on Chinese investment practices in Africa.

It talked about ‘labour relations and practices that are simply unacceptable.’ It also said ‘trade unions across the continent have expressed deep concerns about the way they and their members were treated by Chinese companies’ and talked about ‘the systematic violations of workers’ rights’ by the Chinese.

Having been criticised in the past for disregarding the social and environmental consequences of their resource projects in Africa, the Chinese government refuted claims it is acting like a colonial power.

“China will intensify, not weaken, its efforts to expand relations with Africa,” China’s president Xi Jinping said during a visit to Tanzania.

Ghana has huge amounts of gold deposits along with reserves of bauxite, diamond and manganese.

Gold exports generated revenues of $4.9 billion in Ghana in 2011, according to the Bank of Ghana.

The country also trades in cocoa and started producing oil in 2010.

Exports of gold, cocoa and oil resulted in a 14 per cent economic growth in 2011 in the West African country.

But tensions between Chinese illegal miners and Ghana have been ongoing, with a 16-year-old Chinese miner killed in October 2012 after a government crackdown on illegal mining. It sparked fury in China.

An illegal miner was arrested in February this year after shooting three locals with an AK47 in Ghana.

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