Alake Unveils Transformation Agenda for Solid Minerals Sector

* Gives illegal miners 30 days ultimatum to join artisanal cooperatives

*To establish solid minerals corporation, mines surveillance security task force
*Says ministry will embark on comprehensive review of all mining licenses

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Minister of Solid Minerals, Mr. Dele Alake, yesterday, unveiled the Transformation Agenda for the sector as part of the plan to position it for competitiveness.
The minister also declared that the Ministry was giving illegal miners 30 days grace to join a miners’ co-operative, saying anybody that fails to comply, the full weight of the law would be applied accordingly.
The minister who made this known while briefing All Progressives Congress (APC) press corps in Abuja, also announced that the ministry would work towards incorporation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation.

Justifying the need for the reposition of the sector, he said at the last count, the country’s 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).
The minister wondered how a sector with over two million operators, including over 633 small-scale companies and 251 500 registered miners, struggle to give the economy capital and human development.

According to him, the reasons were no longer invisible, saying studies and practical experience in the field had 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 over mining land as the severe barriers to the development of the sector.

He added: “The Transformation Agenda: 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; 6 Mineral Processing Centres to focus on Value-Added products.”
Alake, noted that the ministry needed to take the bull by the horns if the country must reap the harvest of trillion dollars worth of minerals under the ground across the country.
He stressed that 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 could drive its transformation.
Alake, pointed out that mining was big business and Nigeria must assert its presence in the environment by replicating its strategic positioning in the petroleum sector by setting up a corporate body that plays in this field.

READ ALSO:   JUST IN: Ex-Anambra gov, Chinwoke Mbadinuju is dead

His words: “Consequently, the Ministry shall work towards the incorporation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation.  This is a corporate body that will have subsidiaries doing business in the seven priority areas that require immediate intervention and focus: Gold, Coal, Limestone, Bitumen, Lead, Iron-ore and Baryte.
“Existing enterprises, such as the National Iron-Ore Company, and ongoing arrangements, such as the Bitumen Concessioning Programme, will be reviewed to fit into this new system.”

The minister further explained that the proposed corporation would 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.
He stressed that the positioning of the national corporation as a guarantor and protector of the partnership agreements was expected to assure partners of the country’s seriousness and fidelity.

Alake said the corporation would also 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.
He noted, “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.”

The minister added that the emergence of the corporation in the business of mining would enable the ministry to focus more on its core regulatory and promotional mandates of sanitising the sector and developing ideas, processes, and institutions that facilitate the ease of doing business in the industry.
He assured that the proposed Mining Corporation would not go the way of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The minister stressed that a new administration was on board with a different style which connotes a new mental attitude of officials, adding that even at the NNPC, it was no longer business as usual.

“NNPC is being rebranded to perform better. The leadership in this country is very focus, knowledgeable and courageous,” he added.

Speaking further, Alake said there was a consensus among all stakeholders in the industry that the most pernicious obstacle to the security of the investment environment was the massive presence of illegal miners.

He added that it was quite understandable that mining activities were like a second occupation for many farmers and traders in areas where deposits are found.

The minister explained that the demographic, economic, and security implications of their roles have encouraged, on the part of the government, the formalisation of their role by organising them into cooperatives registered by the government for the transition from illegal miners to artisanal co-operatives.

READ ALSO:   Private Sector Operators Say Rising Inflation Adversely Affecting Manufacturing Sector

He added that this strategy has led government through the Solid Minerals Development Fund and other agencies to foster their human capacity development through training in modern mining methods or technical competencies in information communications technology, mechanical and electrical repairs of mineral exploration machinery and business methods book-keeping.

The minister said the strategy had also led to institutional formalisation through the construction of various markets by the Ministry. Such markets include the International Gemstone market, Ibadan, Oyo State, Kaolin Processing Centre, Alkaleri, Bauchi State; Lead/Zinc Processing Centre, Ubulu, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State; Baryte Processing Centre, Ogoja and the Gold Souk, Kumbosto, Kano State.

He stated: “It is obvious that government’s strategy for the development of the sector has been driven by the accommodation and mainstreaming of artisanal miners.

“However, despite these generous and patriotic gestures, there exist till exists those who have defied all entreaties to join co-operatives and be formalised. They prefer to continue to operate as illegal miners.

“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.”

Alake also revealed that from October, a rejuvenated security regime would become active in the solid minerals sector.

According to him, this would 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 would coordinate the Mines Police and pro-actively address high risk incidences of breach of Mining Laws.

The federal and state governments would also be encouraged to allocate the prosecution of cases against illegal miners to competent courts.

The minister said the ministry would continue to review the standard operating procedures for engaging communities within mining licences, communities are hereby encouraged to form committees which can address the concerns of their members on compensation before exploration, employment during exploration, quarrying, and mining and sustainable community socially responsible programmes during and after rehabilitation of mined sites.

Previous articleProvidusBank Reaffirms Support for Non-oil Export Business
Next articleUPC: PenCom Urges Employers, Employees to Provide Accurate Information to PFAs

Leave a Reply