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FG moves to reduce high rate of illegal gold mining, smuggling

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Discloses stimulation of mineral processing for miners, processors

FG moves to reduce high rate of illegal gold mining, smuggling

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Federal Government disclosed moves to tackle and reduce the high rate of illegal gold mining and smuggling in the mining sector following the invasion of local and international illegal miners recently.

The disclosure was made by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite, in a keynote address at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, Webinar On Unlocking Nigeria’s Economic Potentials, amid and after Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.

Adegbite who also stated that the webinar conference focusing on opportunities and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian mining industry was timely and that government’s immediate focus is really to manage the health, safety, and economic risks of the pandemic as we ease the lockdown and reopen the economy.

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He maintained that mining offers the robust economic potential to diversify the economy, create jobs and increase government revenue which is the core mandate of his Ministry in actualizing it based on the over 44 different mineral types occurring in over 500 locations across the 36 States and the Federal Capital territory.

He further stated that seven of these minerals have been designated strategic to unlock the enormous potential in the sector which includes coal, iron ore, bitumen, gold, limestone, lead-zinc, and barite.

He also said alongside the seven strategic minerals, the Ministry is also looking into key minerals to fuel the future, and these are titanium, tungsten, lithium, and cobalt, which have various applications in futuristic industries such as aerospace, telecoms, and electric vehicle manufacturing.

He said: “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 the government’s revenue from the resource, create jobs, and improve environmental and social stewardship.

“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 Zamfara states.

“Miners of precious, metallic and industrial minerals will be linked to formal markets through licensed private mineral buying centres. One such initiative 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.

The Minister also disclosed that the government is making efforts to stimulate mineral processing across the country using a hub approach that would give access to artisanal and small scale miners to add value to their commodities.

“We are trying to stimulate mineral processing across the country using a cluster or hub approach.  Each cluster will be provided with road and power infrastructure to encourage investors in processing and refining equipment to support a network of miners and processors”, 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.

“In the longer term, the upgrade, completion, and operation of the Ajaokuta Steel plant operations would enhance jobs and revenue generation. The project is based on a bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Russia, with funding from the Afrexim bank and the Russian Export Centre”, he assured.

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He also highlighted other measures and initiatives put in place to galvanise the sector for positive and steady growth which include working with several stakeholders to design mining-specific credit enhancement instruments. Miners will be able to access long-term finance at concessionary rates through these instruments; Generating integrated geoscience information that will help in derisking the mining sector. This is through the ongoing National Integrated Mining Exploration Project (NIMEP). Target minerals include gold, platinum group metals (PGM), nickel, chromium, lead/zinc, barite, iron ore, copper, and others.

Developing a mineral economic corridor to address infrastructure gaps in the mining value chain. Transport networks connecting mines to ports and end-users will be to enhance the competitiveness of the Nigerian mining industry since the infrastructure will be shared with other sectors; With support from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ethos on diversification, job creation, and sustainable revenue generation, I am confident that Nigeria’s Mining Industry is on track to reach our goal of five per cent Gross Domestic Product, GDP, contribution in the next five years.

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