Police in Ghana have arrested 161 Chinese citizens over allegations of illegal mining, immigration and Chinese embassy officials have said.
“The Ghanaians have claimed that those Chinese are engaged in illegal mining,” Yu Jie told the AFP news agency in the capital Accra on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Ghana’s immigration service said that all those arrested would be deported to China.
He said the miners were arrested between Saturday and Wednesday.
Their number brings to 181 the total figure of Chinese that the country’s immigration office has detained within the past month in this African nation.
Isaac Kojo Abraham, Senior Public Relations Officer at the Ghana Minerals Commission, said on Thursday that “all such people doing illegal mining in Ghana without the requisite documentation will be flushed out”.
It was unclear if they would be charged in court in Ghana, Africa’s second largest producer of gold, before being deported.
The arrests took place across the country, including in the central Ashanti region, long known for its rich gold veins.
President John Dramani Mahama last month inaugurated a task force to clamp down on illegal miners.
Known as galamsey, illegal mining is blamed for exacerbating land conflicts, causing runoff that pollutes water supplies and putting miners at risk of injury.
A collapse at a gold mine in central Ghana that was being excavated in April killed 17 people.
Many Chinese are involved in small-scale mining, often crossing illegally from neighbouring countries to work on concessions. Ghanaian law prohibits foreigners from engaging in small-scale mining.
A nation of 25 million, Ghana also has a booming trade in cocoa and it began producing oil in 2010. Its reliance on gold is expected to decrease as oil production increases.
Ghana made $4.9bn from gold exports in 2011, according to the Bank of Ghana.
Viewed as a success story in often turbulent west Africa, the country saw its economy grow by 14 percent in 2011, boosted by exports of gold, cocoa and oil.