Talensi: Dozens of local men are alleged to have died in mines run by a Chinese mining company in West Africa, which is accused of digging under a neighbouring concession to steal a huge amount of gold, media reports said.

According to a year-long investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald, Shaanxi Mining Company Ghana Ltd has also a bitter dispute with an Australian mining company that claims the state-linked Chinese firm seeking gold on an adjacent block dug long tunnels under their concession area to 'steal' gold valued at tens of millions of dollars.

Separated by 2.5 kilometres of rock, rubble and poverty above ground, the mines stand opposite each other. One is an Australian exploration mine run by Cassius Mining Limited. The other is a Chinese state-linked mine run by the Shaanxi Mining Company.

Both came here to make their fortune by tapping into the rich veins of gold that run through this ancient terrain but competition soon turned to suspicion and hostility. Now, they are involved in a bitter dispute over claims of trespass, theft and the deaths of more than a dozen miners.

Cassius suspected Shaanxi's shafts ran as deep as 500 metres underground and had horizontal tunnels running into the Australian concession. A subterranean laser probe confirmed that Shaanxi's tunnels were far more extensive than they had publicly revealed.

The Chinese miners had laid explosives at the entrance to their shafts. Shaanxi staff tried to forcibly block Cassius from entering sensitive areas. Fuelled by suspicion and language barriers, scuffles broke out between the Chinese and Australian camps.

Australian mining manager Andrew Head is still traumatised by the deaths of dozens of miners inside a Chinese state-linked mine in Africa, as per the media portal.

"One day as we were going into one area, the Chinese started running off, they had laid explosives nearby to show us we weren't supposed to be in the mine," says one member of Head's team who asked not to be identified because of fears for their safety.

"It was very, very harrowing."

A report commissioned by Cassius and seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age found there was "a strong probability" that Shaanxi was trespassing on five levels of the Cassius concession, right along its eastern and northern borders.

"Clear evidence of trespass has been gathered which indicates that Shaanxi are mining and exploring into Cassius's licence, to the north and east," the report found. "Given the known geology and assumed grades of veins in the area, the amount of gold removed is probably significant."