Working Paper
South-South labour migration and the impact of the informal China-Ghana gold rush 2008–13

This paper examines irregular South-South migration from China to Ghana, and the role it has played in transforming livelihoods and broader developmental landscapes. It looks at the entry from the mid-2000s of approximately 50,000 Chinese migrants into the small-scale gold mining sector.

They were mainly from Shanglin County, an area of alluvial gold mining. In Ghana, they formed mutually beneficial relationships with local miners, both legal and illegal, introducing machinery that substantially intensified gold production.

However, the legal status of Chinese miners was particularly problematic as, by law, small-scale mining is restricted to Ghanaian citizens. In mid-2013 President Mahama established a military task force, which resulted in the deportation of many Chinese miners. This paper examines the experiences of undocumented Chinese migrants and Ghanaian miners.

Findings are that this short-lived phenomenon has had long-lasting effects and significant consequences for Ghanaian and Chinese actors, as well as transforming economic, political, and physical landscapes in Ghana.