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FG targets 50% GDP in solid minerals sector, issues 30-day ultimatum to illegal miners

September 4, 2023

The federal government has given all illegal miners of Nigerian mineral resources an ultimatum of 30 days to either join notable mining cooperatives or face the full wrath of the law.

It also unveiled plan to set up a special surveillance task force that would include policemen and other relevant agencies to secure the mines in the country.

Minister of Solid Minerals Dele Alake who disclosed this Sunday while briefing journalists in Abuja, also said the ministry would add at least 50% to the Nigerian economy, assuring of its readiness to attract Foreign Direct Investment to the country.

Unveiling his Seven-Point ‘Agenda for the Transformation of the Solid Minerals for International Competitiveness and Domestic Prosperity’, he said this would include the creation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation, Joint Ventures with Mining Multinationals, Big Data on specific seven priority minerals and their deposits, 30-day grace for illegal miners to join artisanal cooperatives, Mines Surveillance Task Force and Mine Police, Comprehensive review of all mining licenses and the creation of six (6) Mineral Processing Centres to focus on Value-Added products.

“President Bola Tinubu has taken firm, courageous decisions that have reset the logic of the Nigerian economy. The removal of subsidy and the adoption of a single exchange rate are among the fundamental transformational policies of this administration. This radical approach to making the economy resilient in the long term is the guiding principle of the management of the Ministry.

“The Ministry has to take the bull by the horns if the country must reap the harvest of the trillion dollars worth of minerals under the ground across the country. To achieve this laudable objective, there has to be a paradigm shift in the strategy by re-positioning the sector in terms of the human and capital factors that can drive its transformation,” the minister said.

He further said: “Such fundamental progress, as outlined above, will provide content for aggressively promoting our mineral deposits for investment. We shall organize country visits and tours, exhibitions, conferences, advertisement campaigns, and presentations to tell significant stakeholders in the global industry that Nigeria is the next profitable destination for investment.

“Already, we are reviewing the draft Nigerian Mining Act in comparison with economies that have recorded significant achievements in Foreign Direct Investment in Mining to introduce international best practices. We are also exploring how to secure local content in the emerging industry to ensure a fair deal for Nigerians by reviewing the reports of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative on the Solid Minerals Sector.”

On the creation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation, the minister said: “Mining is big business. Nigeria must assert its presence in this environment by replicating its strategic positioning in the petroleum sector by setting up a corporate body that plays in this field. Consequently, the Ministry shall work towards the incorporation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation.”

He said the corporate body would have subsidiaries doing business in the seven priority areas that require immediate intervention and focus which include: Gold, Coal, Limestone, Bitumen, Lead, Iron-ore and Baryte. Existing enterprises, such as the National Iron-Ore Company, adding that ongoing arrangements, such as the Bitumen Concessioning Programme would be reviewed to fit into this new system.

Alake added: “The proposed corporation will seek and secure partnership investment agreements with big multinational companies worldwide to leverage on the attractive investment-friendly regime operating in the country to secure massive Foreign Direct Investment for the mining sector. The positioning of the national corporation as a guarantor and protector of the partnership agreements is expected to assure partners of our seriousness and fidelity.

“Similarly, the Solid Minerals Corporation will provide robust support for Nigerian businessmen seeking funding abroad and help to authenticate their investment proposals to speed up the commitment of their partners to invest. Domestically, the Solid Minerals Corporation will engage the Nigerian financial system, which has demonstrated palpable reluctance to support mineral prospecting and mining because of the long-term gestation of value generation by developing a Fund to facilitate investments in mining at interest rates that will be mutually agreed.”

When asked on his target in terms of revenue into the pulse of the government, the minister said the ministry under his leadership, would ensure at least 50 percent contribution to the GDP.

“A significant and interesting fact is that the solid minerals sector that was exploited by the colonial government for export contributed 4.5 percent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product in the ’60s, and 5.6 percent by 1980 accounted for less than 2 percent of Nigeria’s GDP last year. To demonstrate the gravity, compare this performance to the records of less-endowed countries such as Senegal (20%), Mauritania (24%), and Namibia (50%).

“At the last count, our estimated reserves include Gold (1 million ounces); Limestone (568 metric tonnes), Lead/Zinc, (Baryte (15 million metric tonnes), Bitumen (N1.1 billion barrels), Iron Ore (3 billion Metric Tonnes) and Coal, (N396 million). How did a sector with over 2 million operators, including over 633 small-scale companies and 251 500 registered miners, struggle to give the economy capital and human development?” he said.

The minister also said the ministry was introducing a task force and mines police that would help the country combat illegal mining and smuggling.

“For the last time, let me declare that the Ministry is giving such persons 30 days grace to join a miners’ co-operative or find another vocation to do. On the expiration of the period, the full weight of the law will fall on anyone seen on a mining site without a determinable status. This message will be interpreted into Nigerian languages and broadcast on the radio to ensure no one is ignorant of this directive.

“From October, a rejuvenated security regime will become active in the solid minerals sector. This will include the Mine Police, sourced from the Nigeria Police and specially trained to detect illegal mining and apprehend offenders. The new Mines Surveillance Security Task Force will coordinate the Mines Police and proactively address high risk incidences of breach of Mining Laws. The Federal and State governments will also be encouraged to allocate the prosecution of cases against illegal miners to competent courts,” the minister said.

Speaking on the focus area the ministry will target towards improving developing the sector, the minister said that the ministry has identified several factors such as inefficient geo-data, weak implementation and enforcement, poor environmental, safety, and health policies, fragility and conflict, unregulated artisanal mining, low technical capacity, lack of access to financing, weak inter-governmental and inter-agency coordination and weak federal/state relations.

 

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