WHAT does the Federal Government have against mining of gold and other solid minerals?
We are wondering again because there are at least two major reasons that should elicit government’s interest in these minerals that have illegally been plundered for decades – they are great sources of income; their illegal mining annually leads to deaths of hundreds of children, over 400 in Zamfara alone since 2010.
The disclosure by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Linus Awute, that Nigeria lost $50 billion (N8 trillion) through illegal mining and exportation of unprocessed gold, in the last two years, should be of great concern to Nigerians.
“What the country loses to illegal mining is tremendous. But the truth is that the amount of gold that left this country because of the illegal mining activities is more than $50 billion in the last two years. The amount of unprocessed gold that has left this country through the neighbouring countries, Ghana in particular, and being processes in Ashanti gold is enormous,” Awute said at the Nigerian-Brazil Investment forum in Abuja.
Awute, an erudite civil servant, appointed a federal permanent secretary in 2008, and who had served in that capacity in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence, and Ministry of Health before his current posting, is not a frivolous man.
The annual federal budget in the last two years was about N8 trillion, meaning that the budgets could have been funded solely from gold stolen from Nigerian soil. There are fears that the figures understate the plundering that has been ignored for years.
Government’s proposed expenditure in 2013 is N4.92 trillion, it was N4.77 trillion in 2012, the lost gold resources could have funded these budgets that are often unacc0mplished because of poor implementation capacities and lack of funds.
Other solid minerals like iron ore abound in Konkosso, and feldspar (for glass making) in Borgu, both in NigerState. Tantalite, an element for mobile phone technology is in Hayin Kanwa, near Zaria, KadunaState, and tourmaline, used in making jewellery is mined in Olode, OyoState.
The country’s gold belt spreads through different parts of the country, and its illegal mining accounts for the lead poisoning that has killed more than 400 children in Zamfara State since 2010.
Nigeria, once the world’s largest exporter of Columbite and the world’s 6th largest producer of tin ore has abandoned solid minerals to illegal miners, estimated at more than 10,000 in Zamfara alone, who ruin the environment, plunder the nation’s wealth and cause the death of many.
It is time the authorities halted illegal mining, stopped the deaths and harnessed the resources for national development.