Ghana has released 124 Chinese gold miners detained by its immigration authorities and has promised to set free the remaining 45 by today, according to the Chinese embassy in the resource-rich West African country.
The embassy announced the news on its website on Saturday, accompanied by a warning to Chinese gold miners in the country, advising those who have been targeted in a Ghanaian government crackdown to purchase plane tickets and return to China as soon as possible.
"After reaching a consensus with Ghanaian authorities, Ghana has promised to abandon its recent crackdown outside mine sites and to provide assistance to Chinese miners who are willing to leave," the embassy said.
On May 14, Ghanaian President John Mahama ordered a cross-departmental taskforce to crack down on illegal gold and diamond mining. As of Thursday, 169 Chinese had been arrested on suspicion of illegal gold mining.
Ghanaian laws on mining and minerals stipulated that only Ghanaian citizens can hold small-scale mining licences. Most of the illegal gold prospectors in Ghana are Chinese - an estimated 50,000 of them - and the majority come from Shanglin county in Nanning , Guangxi .
Chen Meilian, a spokeswoman for the Shanglin government, was quoted yesterday as saying that at least 12,000 local residents had left to chase gold in Ghana since 2006.
The 21st Century Business Herald reported that, in a two-week period in May and June 2011, a billion yuan (HK$1.26 billion) was sent to Shanglin by local villagers who were working abroad.
The Global Times reported yesterday that nearly 300 Shanglin residents had returned to Guangxi, while 1,000 others had begun their evacuation from Ghana. The paper also cited Chinese miners trapped in Ghana as saying that they were still being harassed by locals.