ACCRA, Ghana, June 14 (UPI) -- More than 1,000 Chinese gold miners in Ghana, facing a crackdown on illegal mining in the West African nation, have returned home, Chinese officials said.
A total of 1,072 Chinese miners arrived Thursday night in Shanglin County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Some of them were part of the thousands of Chinese, mostly from Guangxi Zhuang, who had gone to Ghana in search of quick riches since the gold rush in Ghana started in 2006. Ghana is reported to have the second-largest gold deposits in the continent after South Africa.
Alarmed by illegal gold mining, the Ghanaian government launched a crackdown on such activities in early June, arresting 169 Chinese workers in the latest roundup.
Those arrested, who were released after negotiations with Chinese officials, were among those who came home, the report said.
A Shanglin County government statement said it estimated about 12,000 county residents had engaged in gold mining so far in Ghana.
The crackdown on illegal mining was ordered by the Ghanaian government of President John Dramani Mahama after coming under pressure to take the step.
Mineral and oil-rich Ghana is a multi-party democracy with close economic relations with China, which is increasing its presence in that country. The illegal gold mining issue and the arrests, however, could impact that relationship.
The New York Times reported the bilateral relationship has helped several Chinese workers, fleeing poverty at home, to travel to Ghana.
One analyst in Ghana told the Times the government's crackdown could not be avoided.
"It comes in the context of growing public agitation over the destructive, quite predatory, medium-scale mining operations engaged in mainly by the Chinese and some Indians," Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, who heads the Center for Democratic Development in Accra, told the newspaper. "The public has been quite agitated, and has put a lot of pressure on the government to act."
Some of the Chinese miners, however, said they had to pay a price.
"Police, military, they came every other day. Sometimes our Ghanaian partners came, too, seven or eight people together, brandishing machetes and asking for money," one migrant said.
Xinhua quoted one of the returning miners as saying: "Even if they paid me 50,000 yuan ($8,115) a month, I would not go there again." He had worked at a mine as an equipment guard, earning 4,000 a month, the report said.