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Govs behind illegal mining of gold, zinc, others –Minister, Senate panel

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The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Senator Tanko Al-Makura, on Friday alleged that some governors were behind the illegal mining of some solid mineral resources in the country.

Some of the solid minerals being illegally mined in different parts of Nigeria include gold, zinc, lead, tantalite, columbite, laterite and others. Adegbite told the Senate committee at an interactive session that the challenge of illegal mining was allegedly being supported by some state governors through the provision of police escort for unlicensed foreign miners in their domains.

Although the minister did not specifically mention the governors behind the illegal act, he said they had an “unholy” alliance with some foreign miners who were operating illegally in the country.

Adegbite said, “You will find foreign nationals encouraged by our people. Without naming them, we have some state governments that are encouraging these (foreign) nationals that we are talking about and that is why you see them with security (operatives).

“When they send them to go and do this, they need police. What do you expect a mining officer to do when the state government is backing this illegal mining?”

In his response to the issue of some state governors allegedly aiding illegal mining, Al-Makura described such governors as “illegal miners.”

He advocated a non-punitive approach to resolving the matter, which both the ministry and the Senate committee agreed was on the exclusive list of the Federal Government restricting the states’ direct development of the mining sector.

Al-Makura, who is a former governor of Nasarawa State, called on all stakeholders to develop legal and structural measures to incorporate state governments’ participation in solid minerals development.

He said, “Why are they (governors) giving support to illegal miners? Now, the simple response or answer to that is that they are helping illegal miners because they are illegal miners themselves.

“There is nowhere illegal mining can take place without the knowledge of the community; you cannot illegally mine mineral resources without the consent and the participation of the community.

“It then means that we must find ways, structurally and legally, to encourage state governments not to participate in illegal mining. That is only by carving a role for them. If you look at the law on mining, it is in the exclusive list. There is a need for us to come together – the Senate, the House of Representatives and other stakeholders in the industry to sit down and unbundle this to give every level of government some measure of participation without usurping the exclusive legislative rights.”

According to a February 2019 report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Nigeria boasts of about 44 minerals found in commercial quantities in 450 locations across the country.

However, the mining sector is responsible for just 0.33 per cent of employment, 0.02 per cent of exports and 0.3 per cent of the country’s GDP due to the non-development of the sector and the activities of illegal miners.

The agency noted that illegal mining of resources such as gold, lead, zinc, tantalite, iron ore, tin, columbite and gemstones was being perpetrated in about 10 states in the country, notably in Zamfara, Plateau, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Niger.

In the report titled, ‘Improving transparency and governance for value optimisation in Nigeria’s mining sector,’ NEITI stated that while Zamfara had four illegal mining locations, Plateau had seven.

Other illegal mining sites are in Ebonyi, 5; Enugu, 4; Imo, 5; and Niger, 10.

In August 2018, a former Minister of State, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Abubakar Bwari, said more than two million people in the country depended on illegal mining for their livelihood.

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