Ghana arrests 24 Chinese 'illegal' miners

China's Vice-President Xi Jinping during the 10th anniversary of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Pretoria in November, 2010. Ghana has been one of the big beneficiaries of expanded Chinese aid to Africa Photo | AFP 

Ghana’s Immigration Service (GIS) has ordered the arrest of 24 Chinese nationals for allegedly engaging in illegal mining activities, locally called ‘gallamsey’.

GIS official Francis Palmdeti further said the 24 had entered the country illegally and had neither residence nor work permits. A profile of all of them showed they came from Guangxi Province of China.

The arrests came just days after Finance and Economy minister Kwabena Duffuor announced a $13 billion infrastructure loan from China, which he said would “change the face” of Ghana.

Like elsewhere in Africa, China’s project funding in Ghana has been on the rise, riding on the back of the World Bank’s recent prediction that the country was among the fastest growing this year.

However, Chinese nationals in the country have been on the spotlight for mining activities (mainly of gold), which locals complained were causing environmental degradation.

A local company which was identified by GIS to have assisted the Chinese to enter the country, is to be sanctioned. It has been ordered to pay a fine of 2,000 Ghanaian Cedis ($1,273) for each of the Chinese individuals as well as provide the air tickets for their repatriation back to China.

Economic footprint

This is not the first time a group of Chinese has been arrested for engaging in illegal mining in the country. Last year, 20 others were arrested and deported.

“They (Chinese) are all over the place especially in places where illegal mining is booming. You will find them in the northern region, western region and in the eastern region. It is sad that the collaborators are our own people,” said Mr Fred Boadi, a local environmental activist in Kyebi in the eastern region.

However, the activities of these small numbers of Chinese were unlikely to affect relations between the two countries as China expanded its economic footprint in Ghana and West Africa.

In line with its desire to penetrate the region, the China Africa Development Fund (CAD) has opened an office in Accra, the first in the West Africa region.

Its other African offices are in South Africa, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

CAD envoys billions of dollars in funding from the China Development Bank to support Chinese companies investing in Africa.

According to the Fund’s vice-president, Mr Lu Qincheng, CAD since its inception in 2007 had provided assistance to 50 projects in 30 countries in Africa, worth $1.8 billion.

In the case of Ghana, Mr Lu said, the Fund had assisted the country attract about $6 billion in Chinese direct foreign investment in the manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture sectors.

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