Zamfara crisis: Presidency begins screening of mining operators


The Presidency is demanding details of all those licensed to do mining operations in Zamfara State and the pattern of illegal mining.

This is for the purpose of tackling the crises in the state, gathered yesterday.

Tasked with providing the required information are the Mining Cadastral Office (MCO) and other relevant government agencies.

Already, the Federal Government has ordered cessation of mining activities and ordered in the military as part of measures to tackle widespread banditry in the state.

Sources in Abuja said that the various security agencies’ reports on Zamfara State are being taken together for special analysis.

Page 23 of the 100-page  “Roadmap for the Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Industry” published by the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development states that cumulative mineral licenses granted to various enterprises operating in Zamfara State was 206 as at 2015 but the number is believed to have increased within the past three years.

The publication notes five categories of those involved in mining activities in Nigeria, starting with the majors or international firms, Junior Explorers, Small-scale miners and the overlapping hordes of Artisanal Miners who operate without mining licence and the Illegal Miners, a group that includes Nigerians and numerous non-Nigerians.

The document, on page 40, identifies $27 billion as annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) target for Nigeria’s mining sector by 2025.

Stressing that any firm that begins mining solid minerals with its Exploration Licence and without a Mining Lease is an illegal miner, the Director-General of MCO, Mr. Obadiah Simon Nkom told Reporters that several categories of people doing mining activities tend to cluster around areas covered by a firm with valid Mining Lease, adding that a specialized unit under the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development works with other security agencies in efforts to ensure peace and order.

Although the MCO’s Director-General, Mr. Nkom, a mining engineer, declined to disclose the number of licensed firms and when its database on mining operations and relevant recommendations would be forwarded to the Presidency, he emphasized that there is much cause to be optimistic about the Federal Government’s determination to restore normalcy in the state.

He said:”MCO’s statutory focus is on leases while bodies like the Mines Inspectorate Unit under the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development focuses on how to maintain law and order in mining activities.

“Mechanized mining is great, but because we have over-depended on oil for a long time, we need to grow our solid minerals sector gradually and it may take a while to see results; the most important thing is that we all owe this country a duty to make things work,” said Nkom who was formerly MCO’s Director of Concession.

According to Nkom who is also the President of Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS), the Federal Government is serious about its intention to boost mining and develop it into a multi-billion dollar revenue earner for Nigeria as part of the steps towards actualizing the lofty objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Programme.

“It is very important for all of us, including the mass media and all stakeholders to discharge their responsibilities with patriotism towards moving this nation forward,” he said , adding that the prevailing situation and the security strategies being implemented by the Federal Government do  not favour much disclosures about mining and other issues in Zamfara State at the moment.

Emphasizing that mining has a long gestation period, he stated that the MCO is being repositioned towards boosting Nigeria’s revenue potentials from mining, Nkom said  that  new strategies are being implemented to attract more domestic and international investors into the sector.

Responding to inquiries about the much-delayed Baba-Tsauni mechanized project in which a Nigerian company, Iron Ore Mining Nigeria Limited which holds the Mining Lease is bringing in Germany-based parent company of Julius Berger Plc as Technical operator with a target of generating 8, 000 employment for Nigerians, Nkom stated that he feels constrained to respond because the matter is in court.

“We carry out our statutory responsibilities without political or any other sentiments and we comply with all legal processes; the MCO has not lost cases in court over the years and we are prepared to abide by the outcome of any pending legal matter,’ he added.

Nkom said  that his priorities for attracting foreign investors include putting all lease applications and other mining processes online so that mining firms across the world can develop more interest in Nigeria’s mining sector.

“Also, a prototype has been developed and within the next few months, MCO would physically establish a presence in each of the nation’s six geo-political zones instead of having a single office located in Abuja  as part of measures towards making MCO more accessible to prospective miners in Nigeria.

“MCO aims for maximum transparency in the best interest of Nigeria; anything outside the law is not acceptable and we are working with Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and others; you do not need to know anybody or come from some particular state or political party; if your application reaches us before that of Dangote, yours takes precedence,” Nkom said.

The Nigerian Mining Cadastral Office (MCO) was established under the Mining and Minerals Act (2007)  as an autonomous· body· for administering mining titles also has capacity to supply useful information and recommendations on illegal mining operations.

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