Chinese workers’ safety overseas is again in the spotlight after more than 100 Chinese were detained and one was killed while allegedly mining gold illegally in Ghana.
This is the third case involving the detention of Chinese nationals in the West African country this year, and it is the first time that a Chinese has died.
On one mining site near Manso, a township close to the region’s capital Kumasi, policemen on Thursday destroyed mining facilities and work sheds. During the operation, a Chinese surnamed Chen was shot dead by policemen, the Chinese embassy in Ghana said in an online statement on Sunday.
The 16-year-old boy is from Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, a staff at the Chinese embassy told China Daily.
The detention and casualty happened during recent crackdowns on illegal gold mining in Ashanti, the embassy said.
Officials from the embassy have arrived in the region; Chen’s father and uncle will identify his body on Monday.
The Ghanaian military said the death was an accident and further investigation is under way.
On October 12, Chinese Ambassador Gong Jianzhong urgently met Ghanaian deputy Foreign minister Chris Kpodo and National Security Coordinator Larry Gbevlo Lartey and expressed serious concern over the death of Chen and the detention of Chinese workers. The ambassador demanded a thorough investigation into the shooting and compensation for the family of the victim.
The embassy called on all Chinese in Ghana to abide by related laws and regulations to safeguard their legal interests.
Some Chinese, including those in poor health and women, were released from detention at the request of the embassy. The rest were provided with water and medicine and given health checks.
Ghana expressed condolences for the death and said it will deal with the matter according to law and safety and rights of Chinese citizens.
Similar campaigns will be launched in Ghana, the second-largest gold producer in Africa, amid concerns over exhaustion of resources and local jobs, analysts said.
Dai Yan, former Chinese counsellor to Ghana, said the country has been strengthening regulations in the mining industry ever since the sector became one of the country’s economic pillars. Ghana is cautious about Chinese competitiveness in the region.
Ghanaian stakeholders are discussing amending new laws to strengthen regulation of the mining sector. Revenues from mining account for some 6 percent of Ghana’s GDP. The embassy has reminded Chinese many times to follow local laws and regulations when conducting mining activities.
But some illegal agents still cheat Chinese workers who are lured by mounting profits from soaring gold prices, and unfamiliar with local laws, to take risks in Ghana, said He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Gold output in the first quarter this year rose to 1.53 million ounces, with prices averaging $1,689 per ounce compared to 1,389 per ounce for the same period last year, according to official statistics. Gold production in the country rose 64 percent in this period as higher prices led companies to boost operation.
The Chinese should be aware of their legal obligations in order to protect themselves. Ghana’s management loopholes also contributed to the case, analysts said.
There are also local people who, driven by profit, cheat Chinese investors and miners by selling the same mine to different buyers at the same time, or provide fake mining contracts, said He, the Chinese expert.
These Chinese were also victims of fraud, Gong said in September, urging Ghanaian authorities to address the roots of the problem by cracking down on the illegal agents and mine owners.
Most Chinese miners in Ghana are from Shanglin county in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said the embassy.
According to Ghanaian laws, foreign companies are only allowed to work independently on large and open-pit mines.
A majority of Chinese workers in Ghana work in road and harbor construction, gas pipeline projects and other China-aided projects.
China is not a coloniser as the West has historically been, and mining cooperation is supposed to be mutually beneficial as Ghana is rich in resources and China can provide technology, equipment and funding, said Dai, the former counsellor.
Such cooperation should be further expanded by creating more jobs and sharing more technology with local people, instead of being hampered by certain individuals’ solely profit-driven activities, he added.