Sierra Leone expels 38 Chinese for 'child labour' in mining

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Sierra Leone is to deport 38 Chinese for alleged involvement in illicit gold mining and child labour, officials said on Wednesday.

"The Chinese are accused of involvement in illicit mining causing environmental degradation and child labour," police spokesman Brima Kamara said.

Men, girls and boys were subjected to inhumane working conditions, including working in tunnels, Kamara said.

"The Chinese nationals will be deported next month," an official at the Sierra Leone Immigration department said.

Thirty-one were arrested in July at Masanga village in Tonkolili district in the north of the country under a crackdown by the authorities on illegal mining.

The other seven were among 10 Chinese who were arrested at Peya village in Kono district, in the east, along with two Turkish nationals and five locals.

On July 25, this latter group was found guilty of operating a mine without a permit and sentenced to two years' jail or an alternative fine of $2 000 for operating a mine without a licence.

The Chinese embassy in the capital Freetown said China opposed illicit mining of any kind and was willing to work with the mining authorities to root out the practice.

Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds, gold, bauxite and iron, but its mining sector is notorious for illegal operations, breaches of environmental and labour laws and bypassing tax laws.

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