Ghana to deport about 100 Chinese for illegal mining

About 100 Chinese citizens arrested in Ghana for illegal mining will be deported next week but they will not face criminal charges, an immigration official said Friday.

The arrests have been carried out since June 1 across the west African country and particularly in the central Ashanti region, a major gold mining hub.

"I believe by the middle of next week we should have repatriated them," Michael Amoako-Atta, a spokesman at the Ghana Immigration Service told AFP.

He added that some of the detained Chinese nationals were to be presented at a magistrates court in Accra on Friday, where authorities would seek permission to hold them in custody until they are sent home.

The group is currently being kept in a series of holding cells at an immigration building in Ghana's capital.

The arrests came a month after President John Dramani Mahama launched a taskforce to crackdown on illegal mining.

Ghana is Africa's second biggest gold exporter, behind South Africa, but the sector has long been plagued by unregulated activities.

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.

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.