The federal government has said the two illegal mining companies â€“ Solid Unit Limited and Geotess Nigeria Limited â€“ which were shut down in Zurak, Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State last month had illegally taken out minerals worth over N100 billion in the past few years.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this during a meeting with staff of the ministry in Abuja.
Sixteen Chinese nationals and eight Nigerians allegedly involved in massive illegal mining were arrested in Zurak, on August 15.
After the two companies were shut down, Fayemi and Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser (NSA), visited some illegal mining sites in the richly-endowed lead/zinc belt.
The Chairman of Solid Unit Limited in the state, Usman Abubakar, was also declared wanted for allegedly engaging in illegal activities.
At the meeting with staff of his ministry, Fayemi said the huge scale of illegal mining by the two companies in Wase was tantamount to â€œeconomic terrorism.â€
He added that government was determined to confront anyone or group that is out to sabotage the economy through illegal mining and other means.
Fayemi, according to The Cable, said the scale of illegal mining perpetrated by the two blacklisted companies and their foreign collaborators was humongous.
He said they used very sophisticated equipment, including a tunnel with rail track and other heavy machines for their operations.
â€œThe arrested Nigerians have been in active connivance with foreigners to carry out massive illegal mining in the state thereby depriving the country of revenue,â€ he said in a statement signed by Olayinka Oyebode, his media aide.
The ministe added: â€œTheir unwholesome activities have also led to environmental degradation and abandoned mine pits.â€
He said the leadership of the ministry carried out the operation that led to the closure of the illegal mining sites.
â€œWe didnâ€™t want to leave anything to chance, so it was done discreetly,â€ he said.
In response to a question by one of the workers, Fayemi said the ministry would adopt its own whistleblowing arrangement in order to encourage more information on illegal mining activities in the sector.
The minister, however, added that the ministry would continue to guide and provide both technical and financial support to genuine artisanal and small scale miners, who abide by the rules and regulations guiding the sector.
Zurak is a key location of substantial mineral deposits notably lead, zinc, copper, tin, wolframite, tantalite and other base metals.