Unequal Extractions: Reconceptualizing the Chinese Miner in Ghana

Nicholas Loubere, Jixia Lu, Gordon Crawford, Gabriel Botchwey

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Over the past decade, Chinese migration to Africa has increased rapidly alongside the expansion of Chinese economic engagement with the continent. The entrance of new forms of Chinese industry, aid, commerce and resource exploration has been transformative, prompting debates over whether China in Africa is better described as neo-colonialism or a new form of beneficial developmentalism. One of the most dramatic examples of Chinese migration to—and economic engagement with—an African country is the recent gold rush in Ghana, which started in the mid-2000s with the rapid influx of tens of thousands of Chinese small-scale gold miners from a single poor rural county in China, and continues to this day, albeit on a smaller scale. This paper presents a critical examination of how the Chinese miners have been depicted in public, media and academic discourses as a homogenous group, both benefiting from Ghanaian gold extraction and impacting their surroundings in generally uniform ways. Drawing on in-depth fieldwork in both Ghana and China, we argue that this portrayal neglects to highlight the differentiated experiences of the miners and the segmentation that exists within the miner group, which consists of both winners and losers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-29
JournalLabour, Capital and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • International Migration and Ethnic Relations
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • Ghana
  • China
  • Migration
  • Mining
  • small-scale mining
  • extractivism
  • unequal distribution


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