The Director-General, Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office (NMCO), Muhammad Amate, has said that the activities of illegal miners made it impossible for the nation enjoy the potential of its solid mineral deposits.
Amate said in Abuja that “It is difficult to quantify but definitely I can tell you that the nation has lost a lot of money due to the activities of the illegal miners who neither pay for royalty nor pay for licences to the government.
“In fact, we do not know how much they are carting way, so the government is losing a lot of revenue that would have accrued to the it as a result of the illegal mining.
“It will be difficult to give the estimate of the amount because these are people we do not know where they are and we do not know what they are taken away,’’ he said.
He said that illegal mining had been a major challenge facing the mining sector with people engaged in mining activities without licences while others engaged in mining using wrong licences.
“If you have a licence to do exploration and you engage in mining it is illegal because the licence we gave to you was purely for exploration programme and not for mining,’’ Amate said.
He said that the Federal Government had come up with the policy to put these groups of illegal miners into cooperatives and issue them with licences so that they would be mining under the ambit of the law.
Amate said that the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Department in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) was established to organise the illegal miners into cooperatives.
He said the that Mines Inspectorate Department in MMSD mandated to police mine fields had established offices in all the 36 states.
According to him, initial investigations showed that illegal mining activities are carried out by the foreigners and Nigerians, especially in the area of gem stones and gold.
“There are a lot of illegal activities carried out by the foreigners. We have been arresting people and this takes place in the various states on a daily basis because we have offices in all the states,” he said.
He said that the ministry was collaborating with the local and state governments through the Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committees (MREMCO), to address the issues of environment and illegal mining activities.
Amate said President Goodlack Jonathan had earlier in 2013 set up a high-powered committee to look into illegal mining activities.