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Ghana Expels Illegal Chinese Gold Miners

Artisanal miners dig for gold in an open-pit concession near Dunkwa, western Ghana, Feb. 15, 2011.
Ghana is expelling more than 160 Chinese nationals as part of a recent crackdown on illegal gold mining.

The government announced the expulsions this week, about a month after President John Dramani Mahama formed a task force to curb illegal mining in Ghana, Africa's second largest gold exporter behind South Africa.

An official with Ghana's Immigration Service, Public Affairs head Francis Palmdeti, told VOA that small scale mining activities are forbidden to foreigners in Ghana.

"Small-scale mining activities are only for Ghanaians, and not for foreigners. The large-scale mining sector is open to all. Foreigners can participate in large scale mining. Ghanaians can participate in large scale mining. There is no problem with that," said Palmdeti.

He said the regulation is meant to help protect Ghanaian jobs, as well as to protect the environment.

"We are not trying only to protect Ghanaian jobs, but we are trying to protect the environment, and the forest and the water bodies that are being destroyed by the reckless activities of small scale miners," said Palmdeti.

Ghanaian farmers have accused illegal miners of forcibly taking over their land.

On Thursday, Ghana Minerals Commission spokesman Isaac Kojo Abraham said the detained Chinese nationals, who lacked proper documentation, would be deported to China.

"We are going to make sure that for that matter, the security agencies are going to make sure that all such people doing illegal mining in Ghana without the requisite documentation will be flushed out," he said.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.