Monday, March 14, 2011

Ghana Gold Lures Chinese, In Under-The-Table Deals

There's a gold rush in Ghana, featuring not only small-scale artisanal miners but also real producing mines that are bringing prosperity to local tribes. On paper, locals own the mines - but they're really controlled by Chinese miners. Increasingly, the Ghanian government is craking down on illegal Chinese mining.
The now-ubiquitous Chinese-made "Chang Fa" crushers and grinders started appearing three years ago, as did "Chinese blankets", mats which rely on an old technique known as "gravity concentration" to separate minerals and catch gold granules.

But industry experts say the Chinese have gradually pushed further into the industry, providing capital to cash-strapped miners and increasingly purchasing land to extract ore themselves.

Pinning down the exact role of Chinese in the sector is difficult given that some 30,000 nationals now live and work in Ghana, according to immigration data.

A recent WACAM study showed around 120 Chinese were living and working in Dikoto and three surrounding villages -- just one of many pockets of activity whose legality is hard to ascertain.
A typical fix is an upfront payment of $20,000 to a local and a cut of 10 percent of the profits to same. Typically, the payment goes to a local chief. There are complaints about the mines being less environmentally responsible, with harsher working conditions, than mines operated by major companies.

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