Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of mines and steel development, says the federal government has been under pressure from influential Nigerians to free Chinese nationals arrested for illegal mining.
The Osun government had announced on Monday that 27 persons have been arrested for illegal mining of gold.
According to Osun government, 17 out of those arrested were Chinese nationals.
However, speaking with journalists in Abuja, the minister said the government would not tolerate any form of illegal mining — adding that the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for the surge in illegal gold mining activities in the country.
“Nigerians in high positions of authority [are behind them]. The Chinese are the main culprits in the illegal mining activities and we are going to meet with the Chinese embassy. We are going to present all the facts to them so that it will not appear as if we are targeting them unfairly,” he said.
“These godfathers were operating with impunity before, but they are now scared because the arrested illegal miners are naming names but they (godfathers) are denying. The law is on our side and we must prosecute these people to serve as a deterrent.”