The Federal Government is set to launch a N2.5 billion loan scheme for small scale miners in the country.
The Minister of Mines and Steel, Dr Fayemi made this known during an interview on Channels Television’s Question Time while outlining some of the steps which the government has taken so far to improve the sector.
“Actually one of the key things we’ve done, you recall that the last time you spoke to me about this, I made it clear that 80 per cent of the operators in this sector are in that broad category that you mentioned – Artisanal and small scale miners. What we’ve since done is to encourage them to form themselves into cooperatives. In another week or two, we would be launching a N2.5bn loan scheme for those artisanal and small scale miners.
“We have worked out the framework with the Miners Association of Nigeria, with the Bank of Industry and our own Solid Minerals development funding the ministry and this is really a pilot scheme because we believe that in a number of ways, we can support them from being artisanal to becoming small scale and from small scale to becoming junior miners,” he said.
Speaking further, Fayemi noted that there is a difference between the small scale and artisanal miners.
“We actually have small scale mining licence. And I want to make a distinction between the artisanal miners and the small scale miners. I mean if you can do business in the region of about N10m, we no longer think you’re that artisanal anymore (between N10m to N100m) So you are a small scale miner because mining is a capital intensive venture.
“But between N10,000 to N10m, you are an artisanal miner, but what you need is to find a way to achieve an economies of scale and it is only when you come together with other players in your category and become a cooperative that we can interface with you and support you either with machinery or with operating capital.”
While the ministry has been in never-ending battled with illegal miners with some of them claiming that they have proper certification, the Minister stressed that many of them actually operate illegally.
He explained further that the mining licenses have categories and that a reconnaissance license, for instance, only gives one the right to scout or survey after which they are expected to obtain an exploration license.
“I give the licences, it is my responsibility to sign these licences. And if this ministry tells you that people are operating illegally, you better believe it because we would not just say that irresponsibly. I have just recently been at a notoriously illegal mining operation somewhere in Plateau state, in Zurak, with the National Security Adviser of this country and the Governor of Plateau state. Mining licences have categories – we have a Reconnaissance licence, it just gives you the right to go and scout, just survey what is there. You move from that, you come to us and get an exploration licence.
“An Exploration licence does not give you the right to mine. It gives you the right to test what you have found and you also must come back to us to say “Okay, I have found this and I need a Mineral Export licence because I want to send it to a laboratory in Ghana or South Africa or Australia.” You need to get certification from us before you even send it out if you don’t want to send it locally. The only licence that allows you to enter into a commercial operation is the small scale mining licence, the Quarry license for quarry operators and the mining lease.
“If you do not have any of these three, your operation is criminal if you mine with the intention of exporting and selling what you have mined. So if somebody has an Exploration licence and is mining, it’s illegal; there is no other way to describe it unless you have converted and there are steps to take before you convert an Exploration licence into a mining lease,” he stressed