Zambia has arrested 31 Chinese nationals for allegedly conducting illegal mining activities in the country’s copper belt region. 

Zambia Home Affairs Minister Steven Kapyongo said that the Chinese nationals were arrested on this weekend after a probe operation was carried out in the mining area.

According to Kapyongo, the Chinese nationals had employed underage youths to mine copper and other precious metals.

Some of the miners were believed to be aged between ten and 16 years old.

The minister was reported by Anadolu Agency as saying that those detained will be deported for 'violating the provisions of the law regarding mining and labour activities'.

"China expresses serious concern and resolute opposition to this."

Kapyongo added: "In future, the government will also not hesitate to round up people used by foreigners to do illegal mining activities." 

Chinese Foreign Ministry's director-general for African affairs informed a Zambian diplomat in Beijing that while China supports the action taken to curb illegal mining, the African country has not provided strong evidence of the crimes of its nationals.

Further Lin said that of 31 detained included a pregnant woman and two others who were suffering from malaria.

Reuters quoted Lin as saying: "China expresses serious concern and resolute opposition to this."

Chinese firms have invested more than $1bn in Zambia, which is rich in copper. 

Zambian employees have several times in the past accused the Chinese firms of violating workers' rights and environmental protection safeguards.