The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite says there is no hiding place for illegal miners in Nigeria.
Adegbite, who stated this to Journalists in Abuja, said the ministry was working with security agencies to curb illegal mining in the country.
He explained that the collaboration had become necessary in view of rising cases of illegal mining adding that the ministry was working particularly with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to ascertain the visa status of foreign nationals.
He said the step was taken when the government found out that some foreign nationals were involved in illegal mining in the country.
Adegbite said the ministry further found out that some of the nationals involved in the nefarious activities either did not have work permits or were working outside their specification.
He disclosed that during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, about 17 foreign nationals were arrested in Osun State for illegal mining adding that the suspects were going through the process of prosecution.
“It is a federal thing and they are being tried in a Federal High court.
“These same nationals about three months ago were caught in Kwara State.
“This time an agency that is not directly responsible for mining, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) caught them and they are going through prosecution.”
He also said the government was trying its best to control illegal mining, especially with particular nationals.
“We are tackling this from so many fronts.
“We are working particularly with Nigeria Immigration Service to know how they come into Nigeria because to go to any country you must have a visa.
“With that, we will know what their visas indicate.
“Is it a visiting visa that indicates that you cannot stay more than six months or it is a working visa that gives you a work permit.”
On the ban on mining in Zamfara state, Adegbite said the growing level of insecurity and increased cases of illegal mining were responsible.
On measures to increase surveillance of mining space across Nigeria, Adegbite said it was challenging.
He, however, said the ministry was in search of genuine investors, as well as genuine miners to protect ungoverned spaces.
“The moment government gives out the space, it becomes the responsibility of the miners to protect it,” he added.