Stories by Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Artisanal mining in Nigeria, mostly solid minerals, has grown to about 80 per cent, stakeholders in the sector have stated.
The stakeholders included the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI); the Global Rights and Miners Association of Nigeria.
They disclosed this at a recent workshop in Abuja, where they called for the development and implementation of effective fiscal regime for the practice of small scale mining in the country.
The workshop was organised by Global Rights and it focused on the need to have artisanal miners structured and registered in a formal setup.
According to them, it would be in the best interest of Nigeria to have the sub-sector organised, considering that the country reportedly loses a lot of revenue from the existing loose operational setup of the miners.
They said with such organised structure, the government would be able to implement an effective fiscal regime that would boost revenue earning from the sector, as well as protect the environment of host communities from operational hazards associated with such poor setups.
Speaking in this regard, the Director of Communications, NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, said there were huge revenue potentials in the mining sector for the government to tap in.
Orji explained: “From the scoping study conducted by NEITI in partnership with the World Bank, the size of the sector is very large, it is about 70 per cent or more and that was in 2007.
“By now we think it should have expanded to about 80per cent or more of the sector. You find that those who are doing legitimate business in the sector is about 20 per cent.”
He called for an end to the classification of artisanal mining in the sector as an illegal activity, noting that countries which have organised their small-scale miners were reaping huge revenue from the sector and Nigeria could do same.
“Because we regard these artisanal miners as illegal miners, we ignore the revenue streams that could have come from them if we come back to organise them.
“So, we recommend that instead of chasing them away thinking that they are illegal miners, we need to engage them in robust discussion, we need to organise them because some of them are willing to engage in legitimate business,” added Orji.
Similarly, the Country Director of Global Rights, Abiodun Baiyewu, called on the government to incentivise the formalisation of artisanal mining in the country to stop the miners from going underground or operating with loose systems.
Baiyewu, pointed out that about 80 per cent of mining operations in the country were carried out by artisanal miners. She added that getting them organised into functional setups would boost government’s revenue from their operations.
According to her: “The Nigerian government says they want to focus on mining and agriculture, artisanal mining is 80 per cent of mining in Nigeria and it is largely informal.
“Which means the government is not deriving any revenue from this form of mining and at the same time the mining host communities are bearing the burden of environmental devastation and infrastructural strain of artisanal mining.”
She further explained the workshop was organised to find solutions to the existing challenge.
“The question then is how do we begin to build a fiscal regime framework for artisanal mining in Nigeria? How do we bring the core players to the table? The ministries, CSOs, state and local governments, RMFAC to the table together to find how we obtain a tenable fiscal regime for the country,” Baiyewu, said.
Also speaking, the President of Miners Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Sani, called on the government to organise the artisanal miners first by making the process of formalisation easier.
To this end, Sani, called for the decentralisation of the registration process by establishing Mining Cadastre Offices in the states capitals or areas where mining activities occur. He described artisanal miners as mobile miners who are attracted to an area by the availability of a particular product and the price of the product.