Chinese Mission angry over galamsey reportage, calls for fairness

By: Jonas Nyabor,


The Chinese mission in Ghana has expressed anger at the manner in which Ghana is dealing with the issue of illegal mining and has criticized the media for targeting China in their reportage on the matter.

The mission in a letter addressed to John Peter Amewu, Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, the mission said if nothing changes about the nature of campaigns against illegal mining in the country, bilateral relations between Ghana and China would be affected.

It said it was concerned about, “a number of distorted or biased reports and stories on Chinese people, especially some reports and cartoons that are defaming Chinese leaders and senior officials,” in the media concerning the incident of illegal mining popularly known as galamsey.

The mission in the letter sighted by called on the government to pay attention to the situation which is suggested sought to paint undermine China.

“The Chinese side is very concerned about this unhealthy tendency. We hope that the Ghanaian government will pay due attention to this situation, take the necessary action to stop such things from happening again and guide the media to give an objective coverage on the illegal mining issue so as to create a good environment for further development of our bilateral exchanges and cooperation.”

Campaigns against illegal mining in the country have in the last few months intensified with Citi FM championing a #StopGalamseyNow campaign that is gaining momentum, rallying various stakeholders to address the menace which has left devastating effects on the country’s environment.

Evidence from media reports and CSOs, including police arrests suggest the high involvement of Chinese in the activities, but according to the Chinese mission in the country, its [Chinese] government attaches great important to the illegal mining issue and is firmly against the involvement of Chinese in illegal mining issue in Ghana.

Chinese illegal miners arrested
The mission said was taking measures such as source control and persuading Chinese miners to go back to China and urging Chinese nationals to conduct legal business in Ghana to support Ghana’s fight against the menace.

It also said the government must guide the media to ensure they do not publicize defamatory stories against Chinese leaders.

“We sincerely hope that the Ghanaian government shall take responsibility of guiding the media and requesting them not to publicize such defamatory reports or stories against Chinese leaders officials and the Chinese government.

This will help create a sound environment for our joint efforts to address this issue and the continuous development of our bilateral relations,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources has given illegal miners a 3-week ultimatum to quit their operations.

The sector minister has given assurances that he will lead a task force to arrest illegal miners and destroy their equipment after the ultimatum.



The Burning Problem Of China’s Garbage

Engineers at Beijing’s Gao’antun incinerator power plant control giant claws with joysticks on special chairs inside a cockpit. The claws are capable of lifting eight tons of garbage with each scoop.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Sitting inside a glass-encased cockpit, two men fiddle with joysticks controlling giant claws outside. They look like they’re playing at a vending machine at a mall, where you try to grasp a stuffed animal. But these are engineers. The claws they’re manipulating are as big as houses, and they’re sifting through hundreds of tons of garbage thrown away by the world’s largest consumer class.

Trash is piling up in China — more than 520,000 tons a day. China’s government has concluded the best way to get rid of it is to burn it at incinerators like this one, the Gao’antun incinerator power plant run by the Chaoyang district of Beijing.

“Our emissions from burning the garbage are well below EU standards, and our technology is ahead of incinerators in the U.S.,” says Chen Hui, the plant’s chief engineer.

This incinerator was opened nine months ago. The heat from burning garbage at more than 1,000 degrees Celsius produces enough electricity to power more than 140,000 homes.

Inside Beijing’s Gao’antun incinerator plant, garbage piles past the 25-meter (82-ft.) mark inside an arena-sized garbage container where engineers operate giant claws to sift through it.
Rob Schmitz/NPR

“Our biggest goal is to protect the environment,” says Chen. “This incinerator is funded, built and run by the government. We’re not driven by profit.”

This is not the case in the rest of China.

“China has a few incinerators that burn garbage in a clean way, but they’re not the ones winning bids for most government projects,” says Tao Guangyuan, executive director of the Sino-German Renewable Energy Cooperation Center.

Inside the control room at Beijing’s Gao’antun incinerator power plant, video images show garbage burning at more than 1,000 degrees Celsius. Emissions from the plant go through a high-tech filtration system that reduces its impact on the environment. Most incinerators in China do not utilize these measures.
Rob Schmitz/NPR

He’s worried about China’s pledge to burn 40 percent of its garbage by 2020, because most incinerators in China are operated by private companies.

“Whoever burns garbage the cheapest wins government contracts,” says Tao. “Some companies are willing to burn a ton of garbage for less than $4. When it’s that cheap, you’re definitely not burning it in a clean way.”

Renmin University Professor of Environmental Economy and Management Song Guojun says China could sharply cut its emissions from garbage incineration by asking people to sort their garbage.
Rob Schmitz/NPR

China’s government sets its budget for burning garbage at around $10 per ton, but many of the country’s incinerators, says Tao, do it for far less. According to a report by the Chinese news service Caixin, an incinerator in the city of Shaoxing won a government bid last year for burning garbage at the equivalent of $3 a ton.

Experts say incinerators in China’s first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai burn trash at an average of $20 a ton, which is still a third of the average cost of burning trash in the United States and nearly a tenth the average cost of burning garbage in Japan.

Burning garbage in the cleanest way — like at Beijing’s Gao’antun plant — means doing so at more than 850 degrees Celsius with a high-tech filtration system that removes dioxins and other toxic gases. This costs a lot of money. While some bigger cities like Beijing can afford to do this, Tao says most waste management companies in China can’t afford to burn garbage this way because local governments pay them so little.

As a result, they’re burning garbage the cheapest way possible, filling China’s skies with an unknown amount of cancer-causing heavy metal and dioxin emissions. China doesn’t publicly release emissions data from its incinerators.

And that’s why protests from residents are on the rise whenever a new incinerator is planned for a neighborhood in a Chinese city. Two years ago, thousands of residents in a district of the wealthy eastern city of Hangzhou overturned and set fire to police cars, injuring at least 30 officers, while protesting an incinerator planned for their neighborhood. The same scene has been replayed in affluent cities throughout China, as middle class urbanites become angrier about the health effects of pollution and the lack of government oversight on industry.

Song Guojun, a professor of environmental economics and management at Renmin University, says there is a clear answer to China’s garbage problem.

“If we sorted garbage like many other developed countries do, we’d cut the amount we need to burn in half,” he says. “If we had a functioning recycling system, we could cut it by another 20 to 30 percent. Less garbage means less toxic emissions.”

Song has spent his career studying garbage. He says in Taiwan, where residents sort their trash, incinerators are running out of trash to burn. As a result, an average Taiwanese person generates half a pound of garbage a day. An average Chinese person burns 2 1/2 pounds.

Because China has 1.3 billion more people than Taiwan, Song says the environmental stakes of establishing a trash-sorting program are much bigger.

“Why hasn’t China done this? Because incinerator companies are a big special interest group, and they influence policymakers,” he says. Nonprofits and environmental organizations “have limited power,” he says, “and so do I. I’ve studied this. I know this is doable, but [policymakers would] say it’s unrealistic.”

According to a World Bank report, in eight years, the Chinese will throw away nearly 1.4 million tons of garbage per day — twice as much as garbage as Americans are expected to generate. Half of the Chinese waste will be burned inside incinerators whose managers are currently more interested in profits than clean air.

The question is a crucial one, says Song: If China can build the world’s largest consumer class, why can’t it get its people to sort their garbage?