Police in Ghana have arrested about 100 Chinese citizens this month on charges of illegal mining, a senior embassy official said today.

“The Ghanaians have claimed that those Chinese are engaged in illegal mining,” Yu Jie, told AFP in the capital Accra.

“It is nearly about 100 since June 1,” he said, adding “they will be deported back to China.”

It is unclear if they would be charged in court in Ghana.

The arrests took place around the country, including in the central Ashanti region, long known for its rich gold veins.

A spokesman for Ghana’s immigration authority was not available for comment.

The arrests came as Ghana, Africa’s second largest producer of gold, began a crackdown on illegal miners.

Known as galamsey, illegal mining is blamed for exacerbating land conflicts, causing runoff that pollutes water supplies and putting miners at risk of injury.

A collapse at a gold mine in central Ghana that was being excavated in April killed 17 people.

President John Dramani Mahama last month inaugurated a task force to clamp down on illegal miners.

Many Chinese are involved in small-scale mining, often crossing illegally from neighbouring countries to work on concessions. Ghanaians law prohibits foreigners from engaging in small-scale mining.

A nation of 25 million, Ghana also has a booming trade in cocoa and it began producing oil in 2010.

Its reliance on gold is expected to decrease as oil production increases.

Ghana made $ 4.9 billion from gold exports in 2011, according to the Bank of Ghana.

Ghana, viewed as a success story in turbulent west Africa, saw its economy grow by 14 per cent in 2011, boosted by exports of gold, cocoa and oil.