Ghana’s Gold Sparks Conflict With China

As China seeks to solidify its influence in Africa, Africa’s Chinese diaspora has been under pressure. With tensions increasing in Africa, China’s Foreign Ministry is now claiming that Ghana has detained more than 90 Chinese on suspicion of illegal gold mining, from The Associated Press:

The ministry gave few details in an online statement. It said Ghanaian authorities have cracked down on illegal gold mining this year and arrested the Chinese “recently.”

Last month, the Chinese Embassy in Ghana announced that 40 Chinese had been detained on suspicion of illegal gold mining. Thirty-eight were deported.

China is eager to be seen as capable of maintaining the security and rights of its citizens abroad.

Aside from the detentions, China has claimed that one Chinese national was killed, Xinhua adds:

A 16-year-old Chinese national was killed and more than 100 others were detained by Ghanaian police for suspected illegal gold mining, the Chinese Embassy in Accra said on Sunday.

On one mining site near Manso, a township close to the region’s capital Kumasi, policemen on Thursday destroyed mining facilities and work sheds. In the operation, the boy, known as Chen, was shot dead when he tried to escape, the embassy said.

Upon learning the news, Chinese Ambassador Gong Jianzhong urgently met Ghanaian Deputy Foreign Minister Chris Kpodo and National Security Coordinator Larry Gbevlo Lartey and expressed serious concerns over the death of Chen and the detention of Chinese workers. The ambassador demanded thorough investigation into the shooting and compensation for the family of the victim.

The Ghanaian government has expressed deep sorrow over the death of the Chinese boy and promised to investigate the case.

According to Bloomberg, this is not the first sign of tension in Ghana over illegal gold mining:

“The Chinese destroyed our land and our river, they are sitting there with pick-ups and guns, plenty of guns,” Maxwell Owusu, acting chief of the village in the central Ashanti region, said last month. “They operate big machines and it makes it very difficult to reclaim the land for farming when they are done.”

As global gold prices climb amid economic uncertainty in Europe, Ghana is facing an influx of illegal small-scale miners from China using machinery villagers say they can’t afford. The operations are raising concern over environmental damage in Africa’s second-biggest gold producer and sparking anger among Ghanaians who say they sold their farmland without knowing Chinese gold miners would move into camps nearby.

“The involvement of the Chinese has changed the dynamic of small-scale mining,” Toni Aubynn, head of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, said in an interview in the capital, Accra. “They use bulldozers, pay loaders and really heavy machinery. They have in fact mechanized artisanal mining and as a result the level of environmental devastation is huge.”

Ghana has a fast-growing Chinese population, with Chinese shops and restaurants cropping up in the Ashanti Kumasi. Bilateral trade between the two countries jumped to $3.47 billion last year from $2 billion in 2010, according to the website of the Chinese Embassy in the capital, Accra.

Read more about China-Africa relations, via CDT.

October 14, 2012 11:19 AM
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