Nigeria loses N8tn to illegal gold miners

By The Citizen

The country lost $50bn (N8tn) in the last two years to neighbouring countries as a result of illegal mining and exportation of unprocessed gold.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Linus Awute, said this on Wednesday during an interview on the sidelines of the Nigerian-Brazil Investment Forum in Abuja.

He described the loss as monumental, adding that the activities of illegal gold miners were far beyond control.

Awute, however, added that the Federal Government had put in place mechanism to address the problem.

He said, 'What the country loses to illegal mining is tremendous; but the truth is that the amount of gold that left this country because of the illegal mining activities was more than $50bn in the last two years.

'The amount of unprocessed gold that has left this country through the neighbouring countries, Ghana in particular, and being processed in Ashanti, is enormous.'

Awute, however, said the Federal Government had begun the process of formalising the operations of illegal miners in the country, adding that such a move would help to generate revenue in the form of royalties to the government.

He said, 'The solution to informal mining or illegal mining is to get them formalised and that is what we are doing right now. We have over 600 groups that formed themselves into cooperative societies.

'The most exciting thing is that there is tremendous increase in the percentage of accruable royalties to the government through the regularisation of their activities.''

Awute pointed out that a road map for the development of the mining sector had been produced by the ministry, adding that the framework would help to set out vital programmes to be implemented in the short, medium and long term.

The permanent secretary said a new policy that would help to enhance performance and regulate the sector adequately had been put in place.

He also said the ministry had forwarded a draft Metallurgical Bill to the Ministry of Justice to provide a veritable tool to regulate and monitor activities in the metal sector.

The bill, according to him, will ensure efficient operations in the industry in line with world best practices as well as improve the working conditions of the people.

He said, 'If the sector is well developed, it will provide alternative sources of internally generated foreign exchange that can be used to fund critical infrastructure projects.

'It will also aid the creation of economic activities and organised settlements in the rural and semi-urban centres as well as create employment opportunities.''