Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, says the ministry is working with the country’s judiciary to prosecute foreign illegal miners caught recently in Zamfara and Osun states.
Adegbite made this disclosure at a news conference on Friday in Abuja, adding that such action would serve as a deterrent to others.
He said it was unfortunate that the illegal miners hid under local artisanal miners in the country to perpetrate their act.
Adegbite said that despite the ban on illegal mining activities in Zamfara since February 2019, some illegal mining activities were still going on in the state, especially by foreign nationals.
He said that the foreign nationals, who had been identified included Chinese, Burkinabe, and Senegalese among others.
Adegbite said the Chinese nationals in particular, lured artisanal miners with money to work for them.
“We are going to go diplomatic by interacting with the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, so that it does not seem like we are unfairly targeting their people.
“We will present the facts to them so that they can also make sure they keep this people in check,’’ the minister said.
He explained that illegal mining persisted in the country, especially by foreigners because there had not been any prosecution of culprits.
Adegbite said that the collaboration of state governments was, however, needed to address the situation effectively.
He said about 17 foreign illegal miners had so far been apprehended in Osun while two were apprehended in Zamfara, adding that they would be prosecuted at the Federal High Court.
Adegbite said that as part of the efforts to curb illegal mining activities in the country, the ministry was considering the need to register all local and foreign miners.
He said that the ministry was also in the process of registering all artisanal miners in the country, since government had decided to bring them into the sector’s mainstream.
Adegbite noted that the illegal foreign miners carried out their activities with the active connivance of Nigerians, saying that no foreigner could come into the country for illegal mining without conniving with Nigerians.
“A lot of our people erroneously accept this people, invite them because they believe they can help them with equipment to increase their wins,’’ he said.
Adegbite said it had been discovered that a lot of the foreign illegal miners were in the country illegally because most of them had visitor’s visa, which lasted for only six months.
In the light of this, the minister said the ministry would work with the Ministry of Interior to ascertain the status of foreigners so as to remove the illegal ones among them.