THE Ministry of Mines and Steel Development says no informal mining operator (illegal miners) will be criminalised as they are still undergoing formalisation process into cooperatives.
Mr Patrick Ojenka, the Director, Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) Department, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.
According to Ojenka, informal mining is a criminal activity that needs to be curbed holistically at all levels, but until the ministry concludes their formalisation into cooperatives, they will not be criminalised.
NAN recalls that the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi had during his visit to a mine site in Niger State where hundreds of informal miners were conducting their operations said “I did not come here to criminalise anyone’’.
Fayemi appealed to them to register as cooperatives to enable the ministry formalise them properly into small scale mining lease.
He said in the past few years, the ministry had conducted sensitisation programme through different medium at the Federal, State and local government levels, advising informal miners to register as cooperatives to ease their formalisation processes.
The minister said through the registration, the ministry would be able to formalise them properly into cooperatives after which they would be classified as small scale miners.
According to him, the ministry will support them with funds, and give them Cadestre areas to mine among others.
NAN recalls that the ministry has registered no fewer than 630 informal miners across the country from 2010 till date.
The registration became imperative to enable the government formalise them into small scale mining level, which would help to reduce illegal mining operations in the country.
The registration would also enable the government to know the number of informal miners operating across the country.
From the above figure, more than 100 informal miners have been fully formalised into small scale mining level with licences, a big achievement for the ministry.
Ojenka said that informal mining was caused by poverty, adding that it would be difficult to curb it, except “they are formalised into cooperatives and given necessary support to commence their mining operations.
“Government has not done enough formalisation for informal miners due to lack of funds, that is why it is hard to curb their operations,’’ he said.
The director said that as the formalisation process was ongoing, the ministry also resuscitated the Special Mines Surveillance Task force (SMSTF) in 2017 to curtail informal mining.
He said the aim was to sanitise the mines-field and position the sector on the path of sustainable development.
According to him, the Task Force established in 2012, has membership drawn from relevant ministries and security organisations.
The ministry had also recently commissioned 50 operation vehicles for use by the surveillance taskforce and the State Minerals Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) to check illegal mining activities in Nigeria.
During the commissioning of the vehicles, Mr Kelechi Madu, the Deputy Commandant-General of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corp, revealed that over 500 illegal miners were so far apprehended since inception of the taskforce.
Madu said that only 21 have been convicted, some were released at the discretion of the Mines Officers in the states.
Dele Ayanleke, the National Secretary, Miners Association of Nigeria lamented incessant increase of illegal mining operations across the country.
Ayanleke also agreed that illegal mining was caused by poverty.
He said that illegal mining could be reduced if state governments would agree to release 13 per cent mining derivation fund from what they earned in the sector on monthly basis to host mining communities in their states.
“Illegal mining is on the increase because only the state government is collecting and pocketing the 13 per cent mining derivation fund while the communities where mining activities are taking place still remain in abject poverty.
“My belief is that if all the state governments will agree to share the funds with host mining communities in their states, it will help reduce informal mining because most of the informal mining going on is caused by the sons of the soils.
“We must not blame informal miners every time, they decide to conduct mining illegally because they are not receiving any share from the minerals mined from their communities.’’
He said that government should empower the surveillance task force adequately to enable them combat illegal mining. (NAN)
– Apr. 16, 2018 @ 16:55 GMT