Ghana: Significant growth in the number of Chinese miners cause diplomatic tensions
Author: Hagan Sibiri, East Asia Forum, Published on: 6 November 2019
‘Chinese miners’ illegal hunt for gold in Ghana’ 1November 2019
Ghana is Africa’s second-largest gold producer after South Africa and small-scale mining accounts for about 30 per cent of total gold output. The small-scale mining sector was legalised in 1989 for citizens while explicitly forbidding the involvement of foreigners. But since 2010, Ghana has become an attractive destination for foreign gold mercantilists, particularly those from China. The Chinese miners in Ghana, generally known as the ‘Shanglin gang’, predominantly originate from Shanglin County in Guangxi. Their motivations for moving are varied. While Chinese media sources such as the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald suggest that Shanglin miners go to Ghana to seek their fortune, some residents of Shanglin blame the Chinese government for encouraging the Ghanaian gold rush.
By 2013, significant growth in the number of Chinese miners triggered persistent hostile media coverage of conflicts between Chinese miners and local communities. That year, the Guardian and the BBC reported on the scale of illegal gold mining activities and published allegations of human rights abuses, sparking national tensions. This led to strong opposition and resentment from the Ghanaian public towards Chinese miners.
Ghana faces many difficulties in maintaining good relations with China while dealing with the delicate domestic issue of illegal mining. In both public and media discourses, the conviction is that prosecution of foreign nationals will not only deter foreigners from mining illegally, but also send a clear message of the government’s commitment to fighting against the practice and its associated impact on the environment and human lives.