As FG intensify effort to weed out criminality in gold industry

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite, Friday, gave hope to Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Miners, ASGMs, for higher productivity and performance in the gold sub-sector.

Adegbite stated this at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, webinar with the theme, ‘Post COVID-19 Nigeria: Impact and Opportunities on the Mining Industry’.

According to him, the government has resolved to galvanise the gold industry through its Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative, PAGMI, as effort is being made to formalize, organise and equip ASGMs in Kaduna, Kebbi, Osun, Niger, and the Zamfara States.

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He also pointed out that with the dwindling fortune of oil prices in the international market courtesy of impact of novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, which had caused Nigeria revenue shortfall, there is no other option than to put the mining sector in the forefront as an alternative to the unstable oil sector to salvage the nation’s economy, which President Muhammadu Buhari is making efforts to diversify the economy through solid minerals sector including agriculture.

He also commended the NESG for its efforts to organise the webinar towards mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s economy and described the discussion on the opportunities impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has on the mining industry as timely.

The Minister said with over 44 different mineral types occurring in over 500 locations across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria, made it known that Seven of these minerals have been designated strategic to unlock the enormous potential in the sector. They are coal, iron ore, bitumen, gold, limestone, lead-zinc, and barite.

He said: “Seven of these minerals have been designated strategic to unlock the enormous potential in the sector. They are coal, iron ore, bitumen, gold, limestone, lead-zinc, and barite.

“Government priority is currently anchored in the gold sector and through the ongoing Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative (PAGMI) we are organising, formalising, and equipping Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Miners (ASGMs) in Kaduna, Kebbi, Osun, Niger, and the Zamfara States.

“Miners of precious, metallic, and industrial minerals will be linked to formal markets through licensed private mineral buying centres. One such initiatives is the recently launched Dukia-Heritage Bank Buying Centre.

“Two companies (Kian Smith and Dukia Gold Limited), located in Ogun state and the FCT, have been granted licenses to refine gold and are in the process of building their refineries.”

Meanwhile, the Minister disclosed that as the Federal Government through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is currently an intensifying effort to weed out criminals in the gold industry.

“I equally wish to point out some ongoing initiatives we have designed to support the sector. One of which is the optimisation of our mineral value chain. The ultimate objective is to minimise the export of raw materials, creating value along the chain that would increase industrial and manufacturing activities, create employment, and foster skills development.

“Presently, our priority is anchored in the gold sector. We are creating a gold ecosystem to minimize the high rate of illegal gold mining and smuggling, increase government’s revenue from the resource, create jobs, and improve environmental and social stewardship”, he stated.

Meanwhile, he (Adegbite) maintained that the government is not relenting to wake and put Ajaokuta Steel Company on its feet and running based on the bilateral agreement reached between Nigeria and Russia.

Also speaking was the President of Miners Association of Nigeria, MAN, Kabir Kankara, attributed the challenges of artisanal and small scale miners to lack of equipment, capacity building, and funding.

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Kankara lamented the COVID-19 pandemic impact that has degraded the sector to the lowest ebb, which miners had to stay away from their sites, hence it has brought hardship to his members.

The miners’ boss tasked the government to replicate intervention seen in the agricultural sector like the Anchor Borrower Scheme, ABS, in the mining sector, which will boost the productivity of ASMs.

He also spoke on the need for synergy between the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN) in terms of raw materials for the local industries.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah, in a closing remark stressed the need to make the mining sector a major revenue earner including agriculture.

Ogah expressed optimism that the outcome of the conference would help in policy formulation for the optional performance of the mineral and metal sector.

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