The Attorney General's Office said in a statement on Sunday night that a network had been discovered to search for "gold without the approval of the authorities, in four surface basins in southern Libya."

With the help of people from Niger and Chad, the network was transporting "research extracts to laboratories prepared for recrystallization and purification", he said. The investigator concluded "by imprisoning five defendants, including a Libyan who manages their affairs, and referring the proposal to restore the damage to the economic component to the Public Prosecutor."

The statement pointed out that the Libyan detainee was "organizing gold mining activity with the help of infiltrators from the republics of Niger, Chad, and the People's Republic of China."

Images released by the prosecutor's office show deep rectangular pools-sized pools dug in the middle of the desert. Nuggets and alloys of black and gold metal were also seized.

Gold mining is not a widespread practice in oil-rich Libya, which covers hard-to-monitor desert areas for about two-thirds of its total area.

This is not the first time Chinese have been involved in illegal activities in Libya. In the summer of 2023, authorities dismantled a clandestine cryptocurrency mining network in the west of the country. Dozens of Chinese involved in this illegal activity have been arrested.