China has had a long history of investment in Ghana, whether it be building the country’s national theatre or constructing roads and dams. But the Chinese influence has not always been beneficial. Now it is causing environmental devastation and social unrest.
An influx of illegal Chinese miners, attracted by the abundance of gold, has ignited bloody conflicts with the local — and also illegal — small-scale miners, the galamseys, over the mines’ control.
The foreign workers stay in camps in the bush, their presence evident from roadside signs in Chinese advertising excavation equipment and wholesale food.
With what some see as the complicity of the Ghanaian government, the foreign miners smuggle powerful machinery in the country, which allows them to plough their way through the gold-rich soil much faster than the galamseys, who work with spades. This exacerbates the environmental impact of illegal mining, as fertile agricultural land is turned into wasteland that is extremely difficult to restore.
This film visits an abandoned site where Chinese miners had been operating. It also hears from activists and academics calling for better research into what exactly is polluting the water near mines and possible methods to deal with the wider environmental damage.
Part 1: Scramble comes at a high cost
In the first in a series of four films, we meet local ‘galamsey’ miners and investigate the business of illegal gold mining.
Part 2: Land and rivers laid to waste
The second in a series of four films on illegal gold mining investigates its devastating impact on the nearby environment.
See our article series Mining with impact here