China and Ghana to work harder on tackling illegal mining

China's foreign minister has agreed to help Ghana tackle illegal gold mining in the country, Africa’s second bullion producer, and so avoid tension-generating issues, such as the massive deportation of almost two hundred of his compatriots, arrested and expulsed from Ghana last year.

After meeting his Ghanaian counterpart, Hannah Tetteh, Wang Yi said Beijing took the issue “very seriously,” and urged both countries to work more closely together to crack down further on the problem, AFP reported.

Before gold began losing investors’ faith, Ghana was facing an influx of illegal small-scale miners, mainly Chinese, whose operations became a source of contention and resentment for locals, with disputes often turning into armed clashes and leading political figures raising pointed concerns.

The escalating tensions forced President John Dramani Mahama to launch a taskforce to crackdown on illegal mining last year, when it was estimated that 50,000 illegal Chinese gold prospectors were operating in the country.

The Chinese "gold rush" in Ghana began in 2005 and, at its peak, several thousand small gold mines were run by Chinese, who formed partnerships with local owners.

A number of them have given up in recent months. The issue for them is not just Ghana’s crackdown on unlawful mineral extraction, but also the price drop — in 2013 gold fell the most in 32 years.

China is one of the largest infrastructure investors in Ghana.

Image: Aljazeera’s documentary screen grab