Ghana arrests Chinese for 'illegal mining'

Ashanti Gold Field in Ghana (file photo)
Image caption Ghana is one of Africa's biggest gold producers

At least 124 Chinese nationals suspected of illegal gold mining have been detained in Ghana, officials say.

Chinese officials said most of those detained were mining illegally without visas, work and residency permits.

They are negotiating the detainees' release, a spokesman from the Chinese embassy in Ghana said.

The arrests took place in several locations around the country following a call by Ghanaian officials to end unauthorised mining by foreigners.

Officials raided a hotel and areas near mines where the Chinese were living, the embassy said.

'Gold rush'

The arrests are part of an ongoing crackdown on foreign nationals working in small-scale gold mines, reserved by law for Ghanaians, reports the BBC's Akwasi Sarpong from the capital, Accra.

Ghana is expected to repatriate the miners who were arrested in raids in four mineral-rich regions, he says.

A Ghana immigration official told Xinhua news agency that the detainees "were involved in illegal gold mining".

They are being held at an immigration centre in Accra, Chinese officials said.

Yu Jie, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Ghana, told Xinhua they "have cautioned all the Chinese people in Ghana to strictly abide by the related laws and regulations".

Most of the detained workers flocked to the "Ghana gold rush" from the impoverished county of Shanglin in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Chinese media say.

The issue has been widely discussed in the Chinese media, with some miners reportedly saying they want to leave but face hefty fines.

Ghanaian authorities introduced a ban in April on Chinese engaging in illegal gold mining in the central region of Ashanti, as well as in western and eastern regions, to stop environmental damage.

In October last year, a Chinese boy was killed during a security crackdown on illegal mining.

About 100 Chinese nationals were also detained over illegal mining the same month.

Ghana is Africa's biggest gold producer after South Africa, producing more than 1.6 million ounces in the first half of 2012.

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