News / Africa

High Gold Prices Bring Chinese into Ghana's Mines

Artisanal miners dig for gold in an open-pit concession near Dunkwa, western Ghana, February 15, 2011.
Artisanal miners dig for gold in an open-pit concession near Dunkwa, western Ghana, February 15, 2011.
Joana Mantey
ACCRA — A recent influx of Chinese nationals into Ghana’s gold mining sector is raising concerns among policy makers and the country's citizens.  This is because the Chinese are engaged in small-scale mining, an area that in theory, is solely preserved for Ghanaians.  Most of them are also apparently working without a permit and on occasion extend their operations into some restricted areas, devastating the land in the process.

Investments

Ghana was known as the Gold Coast before gaining independence in 1957.  Since then the mineral has been one of the backbones of the nation’s economy.  So why this sudden interest in Ghana by Chinese small-scale miners?  Ahmed Nantogma is director of public affairs at Ghana’s Chamber of Mines. He said the main reason is the rise in the price of gold on the world market.

From $200 an ounce about 10 years ago, gold is now trading at more than $1,500 an ounce.  Therefore, the Chinese are assured of good returns on their investments.

“You go where your product is," said Nantogma. "So that is why they are not going to say, Congo or Liberia, they come to Ghana.  And they know they can take advantage of the situation and hide somewhere in a bush and mine illegally without paying taxes.”

Land, community disruptions

On occasion, conflict situations erupt between residents in mining communities and the Chinese miners.

“The [Chinese] leave the land devastated, sometimes they do not even consult the people before they go there.  The people also feel that they own the resource.  They own the land and [Chinese] have come to take the gold away,” Nantogma explains.

There are social factors at work too.

Richard is a Ghanaian businessman.  He said the coming of the Chinese has raised rent prices for guest houses and hostels in some mining towns, such as Dunkwa-On-Offin in Ghana's Central region.  He said access to such accomodations is becoming difficult for Ghanians because most Chinese miners pay up front for months on end.

Added to this is the devastating effect of illegal mining on the land.  Isaac Abraham is a Ghanaian worker. He said farmlands are destroyed and water bodies are polluted as a result of illegal mining. “Sometimes they dig the place and when they find no mineral they just move to another place just like that.  But with the regulated mining companies this does not happen,” he said.

Kofi Tetteh is an assistant manager of small-scale mining at the Minerals Commission of Ghana.  He said licenses have been granted to about 1,000 small scale miners in Ghana.  He says many of these Ghanaians sublet their licenses to Chinese miners. “Behind every illegal Chinese operator, we are looking at an opinion leader, a chief, a farmer, a land owner or somebody who then sublets it to the Chinese for these illegal activities,” he said.

Illegal mining

The Ghana Immigration Service says there are about 3,000 Chinese in Ghana with resident permits.  However, the number of Chinese engaged in illegal gold mining activities is unclear, since none of them have been registered.  Under the Minerals and Mining Law of Ghana, people wishing to engage in any form of mining are required to obtain the needed license.

Tetteh said enforcing the law on illegal mining is a problem in Ghana. “At times we apprehend these Chinese.  We send them to the law courts and the same law is used to set them free,” Tetteh added.

Tetteh said the Minerals Commission is working to reform the law in order for stiffer punishments to apply not only to the Chinese but all other categories of people who may flout the law.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: concern.citizen
August 29, 2012 10:50 AM
The next thing I anticipate after this report is that the CHINESE will claim Ghana or Dunkwa to be a part of their territory, GHANIANS I believe you need to assert your rights before it will be taken away from you.China is already a huge territory. Your land can sufficiently provide for your basic needs...
In Response

by: John from: German
August 29, 2012 10:55 PM
Stupid idea. Chinese is not a threat ,most of them affected by peaceful Buddhism and Confucianism. What you should defend and fear is Islam,the true territory to the world, exist on murder and violence. Look at Holand,France,British...look at Europe now, Islam just like plague spreading everywhere. They will dominate Europe by the huge child birth and wipe all non-Islam out of this land,once it done, the next target will be Africa and America.

by: Optimist
August 29, 2012 10:28 AM
Chinese are coming to Africa to get what's beneath the blessed African ground. If they come to a democratic country then we have no problem, because the democratic values of the nation will protect the individual citizen. The only problem is, sometimes when a Chinese company enters a non-democratic African country and they see lasting business potential there, they start protecting the regime to continue to oppress the people, and that becomes a source of conflict between us and the Chinese company doing business at the expense of the rights of the indigenous citizen.

For instance, a Chinese company is working on building a dam in Ethiopia where over two million indigenous populace will seriously be affected as a result of the dam. Outside of Ethiopia some three more million people will be affected as a result. In addition to such violations, the Chinese are helping the Ethiopian regime to spread anti-democracy fear via eavesdropping apparatus. This is making telephone and internet communications out of reach, essentially hampering the ability for Ethiopians to organize and help citizens who are being affected by policies.

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