Ghana residents up in arms over 'illegal' Chinese gold minersBy FRANCIS KOKUTSE in MANSO-NKWANTA | Monday, July 23 2012 at 18:17
The alleged involvement of Chinese in illegal gold mining and environmental destruction has sparked growing resentment among locals still smarting from the increased presence of the Asians in the country's retail trade.
The angst has not been helped by claims that the Chinese have been terrorising villagers. Nine Chinese were on July 19 arrested in Manso-Nsiena in the Amansie-West District of Ashanti after they reportedly used pump action guns to chase away irate youths looking to flush them out of their farmlands.
The latest clash is the latest between Chinese and villagers around the illegal mining camps in the Adansi and Amansie West Districts in the Ashanti region. The government says it has set up a task force to deal with the issue and promised that foreigners found flouting the country’s mining laws would be deported.
The deputy chief of staff, Mr Alex Segbefia, said the process of acquiring licenses for small scale mining activities in the country would be streamlines adding that "it has become necessary for government to deal with foreigners who engage in such illegal activities by putting them before the courts and also deporting them if need be."
Anger against Chinese encroachment of farming lands in the Adansi and Amansie-West led to the killing of one last month.
"There is growing envy as they ride four wheel drive vehicles around the town and everyone sees that they have made money,” said a local, Mr Adjei Appiah.
The souring relations come just weeks after the country's vice president John Dramani Mahama announced that the Chinese Development Bank (CDB) would release part of a $3 billion loan to develop the country’s gas production.
Youth leaders are worried that the activities of the Chinese are destroying water sources as chemicals used in mining are washed into the water bodies.
"As at now, most of the people do not have good drinking water because the rivers have all been contaminated,” said Mr Alfred Yamoah, a youth leader at Manso-Nkwanta.
Mr Yamoah, who took the Africa Review on a tour of some of the mining camps, wondered how foreigners could be allowed to destroy farmlands with impunity.
"It is like there is no law in the country again. I wonder if a Ghanaian can enter China, then enter any of that country’s forest and start operating like the Chinese have been allowed to do in this country,” he said.
Inside one of the lush forests on the outskirts of Manso-Nkwanta, is an illegal mining camp covering about three acres and it is operated by a Mr Lin Wei, a Chinese.
“I arrived in Ghana about six months ago to meet some of my friends who have also come to mine for gold. They own the land and have permits to operate here," he said.
But The Minerals Commission (MC) said it has not granted any mining permits in the Amansie-West District and has directed that all the Chinese be flushed out of the district.
The commission's chief executive Ben Aryee told the media in Accra that, “nobody, not a Chinese, nor any foreigner or even a Ghanaian, has a licence on the area in question."
Adansi and Amansie Districts are far from the capital, Accra. Obuasi and Manso-Nkwanta, which are the capitals of the two districts are over 250 kilometres apart.
The spokesman of former President John Kufuor told Africa Review that, "we were surprised to find several Chinese aboard an Emirates flight from Shanghai recently. Most of them said they were on their way to Obuasi even though that was their first trip to Ghana.”
It is becoming clear that there is no control over the illegal mining activities.
Mr Yamoah said the MC’s statement does show that there is some collusion between the Chinese and some of the traditional leaders.
"We see the Chinese moving about in the towns and villages and districts and no traditional leader can claim that they do not know about their activities. If they did not know, they would have reported them to the security agencies long ago. No local person can encroach on another person’s land without anyone raising a finger so, if these Chinese can take over communal lands, this must be questioned.”
The chief executive (government representative) of the Amansie West district, Mr Charles Oti-Prempeh, told this writer that "the presence of the Chinese is really worrying to us. The situation has now gone beyond us and we have involved national security to deal with it.” He declined to further comment on the issue.
"It is this silence by the authorities that is worrying,” said Mr Yamoah. “It is like the country does not have laws to deal with these situations. Fortunately, we have laws, what we have refused to do is to apply to them appropriately.”
- Why Obama is visiting Tanzania
- Somalia lists 1,345 foreigners in Mogadishu
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- After Berlin Man, two reported cured of HIV in Kenya
- Botswana bans fruit and vegetable imports
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Ethiopia's anti-female cut crusader honoured
- Tough life for Eritreans two decades after independence
- Another politician for the Kenya Cabinet
Beyond the ballot