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Why we’re supporting artisan miners despite wooing coys – Minister

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has said the federal government is providing funding and other forms of support to artisan miners…

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has said the federal government is providing funding and other forms of support to artisan miners in the country to improve the sector and engender economic growth along the value chain.

This is just as the minister said the country can’t rely on the activities of the miners to accelerate the generation of government revenue but the need for big companies to invest in the mining of natural resources for Nigeria to optimally benefit from the sector.

Speaking during an appearance on Arise TV Morning Show, which was monitored by our reporter, yesterday, Adegbite said over 400,000 artisans exist in the country which the government is supporting through cooperatives as it considered subsistence miners that need to be protected as they rely on the trade to feed their family.

“Artisan mining is the major activity we have in Nigeria but it will not get us to where we are going. Yes, they have fulfilled their purpose that is why the government has not made it illegal. We don’t want to dislodge these people and put them out of work and put the families in a problem. Today we have over 4,000 cooperatives; it is a minimum of 10 people coming together. When they form a cooperative, we give them access to funds. We have a fund with the bank of industry and it is the cheapest you can get in this country. You can borrow the sum of N100m at 5 per cent interest rate per annum for a tenor of about 20 years. Apart from the fund, we give them free training,” Adegbite said.

He however said Nigeria will not begin to realise the potential of the sector until big players invest in it, adding that this could be realised if the sector is de-risked as the sector needs lots of money for exploration.

He added that with data on where each mineral could be found in the country, investors can easily come in and allow the sector to grow and contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product.

“There is the need to invest its own money in exploration and acquiring data. This is what President Muhammadu Buhari did, especially in 2017. This data is what is attracting people to the sector now. Additionally, when we came in, I noticed that we were going the petroleum route again, where we will export crude oil and bring in the refined product. So we started a process to engage stakeholders and it is over two years but today, it is an official policy of the government and it was approved by the Federal Executive Council where without beneficiation, you can’t export raw ore from Nigeria anymore,” he said.

While stating that this would create jobs in the country, he said reforms in the sector have attracted lots of investments from the UK, US, Canada and Australia that are now mining actively.

“A Canadian company is currently mining gold in Osun State and this is because we supported them; gave them the enabling environment and all those factors that were militating against mining in the past like infrastructure and so on, people from the private sector are coming in,” he added.

He stated that there is a private sector initiative on using the waterways as primary transportation for the exportation of minerals and it is working with the private owner of Burutu Port, in Delta State, to designate it as the mineral export port in Nigeria.

When asked on what would be the fate of the Ajaokuta Steel Company with the federal government now in full possession of it, he said it is working on a different path of concession with the aid of a transactional advisor to guide the federal government on the proper thing to do.

He said the federal government had received 11 bidders interested in the company but they will be the ones to come with their equity.

“We don’t want a free ride anymore, which is the lesson we learnt from the past. We have learnt a lot of lessons because we have had two sessions of concessions of Ajaokuta that have failed; this time around, we are being guided by experts and because of the values inherent in Ajaokuta, which people have visited and appreciated, we have a lot of interest of people who want to come in but those who want to come in must do so on an equity basis,” he said.