Chinese citizens who work at gold mines in Ghana will not be protected by their home country if they get snared in a crackdown on illegal mining, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned after some Chinese nationals were detained for working in the African nation.
Although Ghana allows licensed companies to do small-scale gold mining, “it’s still illegal for foreigners” to work in the sector, “and they will not be protected by Ghanaian laws”, the ministry said on Monday on the Chinese social media app WeChat.
Some Chinese citizens had been detained “in recent days” for working at Ghanaian gold mines illegally, it said, without providing details.
China’s embassy in Ghana alerted miners at the start of the new year that they faced the possibility of being arrested as the local government stepped up its crackdown on foreign operations.
An official from the embassy’s consular affairs department, who declined to be identified, said he could not say more about the matter.
The ministry’s consular affairs’ media centre in Beijing could not be reached for comment.
Chinese miners have been flocking to Ghana, Africa’s second-largest gold exporter and the world’s tenth largest, for several years.
At the height of the miners’ gold rush in 2012-13, more than 30,000 Chinese were mining Ghanaian gold, according to an earlier report by the Global Times, a newspaper owned by Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily. About 90 per cent of them hailed from Shanglin county in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the report said.
But their number had fallen in recent years as Ghanaian authorities had stepped up their raids on illegal mining, Su Zhenyu, secretary general of the China-Ghana Mines Association, was quoted as saying.
But news website Asia by Africa reported last month that 50,000 Chinese migrants had poured into Ghana in recent years, drawn by the country’s unprotected mineral wealth and sky-high gold prices.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo called illegal mining by Chinese citizens a top concern.
“Ghana and China have a strong relationship,” he told Nikkei Asian Review last month. “However, we have a big problem [with] Chinese involvement in illegal mining activity in Ghana [and] we have decided to do something about it.”
In June 2013, 124 Chinese citizens were detained by Ghanaian police for digging for gold illegally.
The arrests prompted the Chinese foreign ministry to urge Ghanaian authorities to enforce their laws – in a civilised way – to protect residents from having their resources plundered by foreign invaders.
Beijing has long been determined not to allow relations with Ghana to be undermined by the arrests of the illegal gold miners.
It wants to protect its growing trade relationship with one of Africa’s brightest economic stars.
Ghana-China trade stood at more than US$6 billion in 2017, up 11.7 per cent from a year earlier, according to an article on the website Ghana Web.
It also seeks to defuse any issue that could stoke popular resentment against its citizens doing business in Africa or threaten its expanding trade relationship with the continent.