Golden Migrants: The Rise and Impact of Illegal Chinese Small-Scale Mining in Ghana

Osman Antwi-Boateng, Mamudu Abunga Akudugu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates factors that attract Chinese migrants into illegal small-scale mining in Ghana, their role in the supply chain, and the impact of their involvement. This is accomplished via mixed qualitative techniques involving interviews with illegal small-scale Chinese and Ghanaian miners, and relevant Ghanaian stakeholders. Although the majority of Chinese interests in African mining is state sponsored, the Ghana case demonstrates private Chinese agency that is mostly attracted to illegal small-scale mining in Ghana due to push factors in the homeland and pull factors associated with Ghanaian state weakness. The Chinese dominate the supply chain of illegal small-scale mining with their financial, technical, managerial acumen, the sale and transfer of gold proceeds, and political patronage. This dominance accounts for the massive negative social, economic, environmental, and political impact of illegal small-scale mining in the country. Amid state weakness, Ghanaian civil society, exercising agency, remains a potent force against the phenomenon. Related Articles: Abdulai, Abdul-Gafaru, Justice Nyigmah Bawole, and Emmanuel Kojo Sakyi. 2018. “Rethinking Persistent Poverty in Northern Ghana: The Primacy of Policy and Politics over Geography.” Politics & Policy 46 (2): 233-262. Davis, Charles. 2008. “Preemptive Federalism or Regulatory Dismantlement? The Bush Administration's Implementation of the Federal Coal Mining Reclamation Program.” Politics & Policy 36 (3): 400-418. Kim, Eun Kyung. 2019. “Issue Ownership and Strategic Policy Choice in Multiparty Africa.” Politics & Policy 47 (5): 956-983. Related Media: The Guardian. 2013. “The Price of Gold: Chinese Mining in Ghana Documentary: Guardian Investigations.” Voice of Africa. 2015. “Illegal Mining in Ghana.” Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. 2017. “Ghana: Media Coalition Launches Campaign against Illegal Mining.”

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-167
Number of pages33
JournalPolitics and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020


  • China-Africa Relations
  • Chinese
  • Civil-Society
  • Ghana
  • Migration
  • Resource Management
  • Sino-Africa
  • Small-Scale Mining
  • State Weakness
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • “Galamsey,” Resource Curse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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