Kasim Sumaina and Ononso Nwoafor-Orizu in Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (FMMSD) on TuesdayÂ signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bank of Industry (BoI) for the management of a N5 billion fund in support of Artisanal and small scale miners in the country.
Under the arrangement, the ministry would contribute N2.5billion which would be matched by another N2.5 billion by the BoI.
The ministry hinted that, under the scheme, a certified artisanal scale miner, can access between N100 and N10 million; while a small scale miners can access between N10 million and N100 million.
The Minister, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said at the signing of the MoU that the development was aimed at addressing the issue of insufficient funding and access to capital, which is a major factor militating against artisanal and small scale miners in the country and account for about 80 per cent of activities in the mining sector.
According to him, “the Bank of Industry would serve as the custodian and manager of the fund, which would be given to the artisanal and small scale miners at five per cent interest.
â€œThis agreement is a meeting of minds between the FMMSD and the BoI. We are in the first instance launching a N5 billion fund. With our ministryâ€™s pilot contribution of N2.5 billion, BoI will match our contribution with another N2.5 billion.”
Fayemi said: “Consequently, with this agreement, the FMMSD appoints BoI as the Custodian and Manager of the Nigerian artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) financing support fund, for the purpose of financing artisanal and small scale mining projects involving industrial minerals, precious stones, precious metal (Gold), Dimension Stone and such other strategic minerals in Nigeria as shall be approved by the ministry and BoIfrom time to time.â€
The minister said that the fund would be available in the form of term loans or working capital to be utilised for the purchase of requisite items of plant and machinery; payment for drilling, geological and other services related to mining business as may be required, among others.
He added that proper funding would help to integrate the artisanal and small-scale miners into the formal sector, enhance their growth and development in a structured manner, and spur productivity and job creation in the mining sector.
He said: â€œThe single obligor limit of loans to be granted under the Fund shall be from N100,000.00 to N10,000,000.00 for artisanal scale miners; and from N10,000,000.00 to N100,000,000.00 for small scale miners.
â€œThe loans would be made available to certified industry participants at a single digit interest rate of five per cent per anum, which is by far about the most attractive within our jurisdiction.”
He stated that, in addressing the challenge of insufficient funding and lack of access to capital, the ministry secured approval for N30bn (approximately $100 million) from the mining sector component of the Natural Resources Development Fund from the federal government of Nigeria.
“We also secured the World Bankâ€™s approval for $150 million to support the ministryâ€™s Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification (MinDiver) programme.
â€œThe Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF) is now spearheading the assembling of a $600M investment fund for the sector, working with entities such as the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, the Nigeria Stock Exchange and others.”
He added: “This is a departure from the past, judging by the fact that in 2015, out of the meagre N1 billion allocated to the ministry, only N352 million was released.
â€œIt is noteworthy that in addition to funding support from multilateral agencies, partnerships on technical cooperation have also been brokered or re-activated with several foreign governments. Existing technical partnerships have been operationalised with the governments of South Africa, China, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Nigeria now takes the lead in regional efforts to develop mining, especially within the framework of the Africa Mining Vision.â€
Responding, the Chief Executive Officer, Bank of Industry, Mr. Pitan said the Bank was convinced that the fund would step up a rapid development in the mining sector, just as a similar funding arrangement administered by the BoIboosted the countryâ€™s movie sector.
He said BoI is a pioneer in the area of funding mining activities where other banks are reluctant to invest. He, however stated that the Fund is not an aid, but repayable by beneficiaries.