The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adeg
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite says there is no hiding place for illegal miners in Nigeria.
Adegbite, who spoke at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja, said the ministry was working with security agencies to curb illegal mining in the country.
He said the collaboration had become necessary in view of rising cases of illegal mining.
Adegbitesaid the ministry was working particularly with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to ascertain the visa status of foreign nationals.
He said the step was taken when government found out that some foreign nationals were involved in illegal mining in the country.
Adegbite said the ministry further found out that some of the nationals involved in the nefarious activities either did not have work permit or were working outside their specification.
The minister said that during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, about 17 foreign nationals were arrested in Osun State for illegal mining
He said the suspects were going through the process of prosecution.
“It is a federal thing and they are being tried in a Federal High court.
“These same nationals about three months ago were caught in Kwara State.
“This time an agency that is not directly responsible for mining, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) caught them and they are going through prosecution, ‘’ he said.
He also said government was trying its best to control the issue of illegal mining, especially with particular nationals.
“We are tackling this from so many fronts.
“We are working particularly with Nigeria Immigration Service to know how they come into Nigeria because to go to any country you must have a visa.
“With that we will know what their visas indicate.
“Is it a visiting visa that indicates that you cannot stay more than six months or it is a working visa that gives you a work permit,” he said.
On ban of mining in Zamfara, Adegbite said the growing level of insecurity and increased cases of illegal mining were responsible.
On measures to increase surveillance of mining space across Nigeria, Adegbite said it was challenging.
He, however, said the ministry was in search of genuine investors, as well as genuine miners to protect ungoverned spaces.
“The moment government gives out the space, it becomes the responsibility of the miners to protect it, ‘’ he said.
The minister said beyond that, security agencies were working to prevent illegal miners from coming into the country.
On lead Poisonings that is ravaging the sector, he said his ministry has trained artisanal miners on safe gold processing
On the outbreak of lead poisoning in Zamfara, he said it was caused by the activities of artisanal miners.
He said the miners were using the same mortar they used in pounding their grains and other consumables to pound the gold.
Adegbite said that washing lead and cynide in water streams also contributed to lead poisoning.
”They ingested the lead and once you ingest lead, it is a permanent damage, it damages the Central Nervous System.
”Lead poisoning comes from illegal mining and there are so many other ills that come with illegal mining.
”Lead poisoning comes from the processing of gold.
”There is a lot of advocacy going on now, we are making sure that we tell people not to use harmful ways to process their minerals,” he said.
On ban of mining in Zamfara, he said it still subsisted but would be lifted at the appropriate time by the National Security Adviser (NSA).
”The National Security Adviser (NSA) is at the apex of the security architecture, it is constantly being reviewed because we have genuine investors who are suffering as we speak.
”They have put money, bought equipment, put plans on ground before the suspension and they are suffering now so, we are constantly in review with the NSA.
”I am sure that at the appropriate time, they will lift the ban because they are aware of the pains of the investors”.
On quick trial of mining cases, the minister said that special courts and judges had been designated to handle the cases.
He said that the move was to facilitate speedy dispensation of justice. (NAN)
Kano gold souk
He said the Kano Gold Souk and other regional projects being executed by the ministry will become operational by 2023.
Adegbite said the souk would make the country to become a world destination for gold.
According to him, we have trained people who will make jewelries, they will be resident in that gold souk.
“In Kano, our gold is being taken out of Nigeria to places like Dubai and others where they turn them into jewelries.
“You buy them at expensive prices there but when those gold leave Nigeria in their raw form, they pay next to nothing for it.
“So, we said lets have a gold souk in Kano which can rival any souk in the world.
“They will turn the gold in Nigeria into jewelries. They can make bangles, straps, earrings necklaces, and pendants.
“People are trained to do this now so, we are adding value in Nigeria and we are saying that Kano Gold souk can join the world calendar of souks.
“This will enable people to know that at a certain time of the year, we will organise a gold festival in Kano gold souk so that women and men from all over the world can come to Kano and buy gold.
“That is why we have done all these six regional projects and those projects are at advanced stages of completion.
`We should be commissioning them very soon. We will look at suitable dates to inaugurate these projects early in the New Year,’’ the minister said. (NAN)