In two years, Nigeria has lost about N8 trillion ($50 billion) to illicit gold mining activities, the Federal Government has said.
This disclosure comes two months after an audit report from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on the nation’s solid mineral sector revealed that regulatory failures cost Nigeria revenue losses of over N4 billion between 2007 and 2010.
Linus Awete, permanent secretary, mines and steel development ministry, speaking during an interview in Abuja on Wednesday, noted that activities of illegal miners in the country had become quite unmanageable, though government was currently pursuing schemes to address the problem.
“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”, Awete said.
Huge quantities of unprocessed gold, according to Awete, leaves Nigeria through neighbouring nations, particularly Ghana and are being processed in Ashanti gold mines.
One of the schemes being pursued by government to manage the problem is the formalisation of operations of the illegal miners.
“The solution to illegal mining is to get them formalised and that is what we are doing right now. We have over 600 groups that formed themselves into cooperative societies”.
Awete claims that there has been “tremendous increase” in the percentage of royalties accruing to the government through this formalisation exercises.
Earlier, in a presentation made at an investment forum between Nigeria and Brazil, the permanent secretary said that a road map for the development of the mining sector had been produced by the ministry aimed at setting out vital programmes phased into short, medium and long terms.
The go vernment has put in place a new policy that led to the restructuring of the ministry to enhance performance and regulate the sector adequately.
Awete noted that there were existing fiscal policies that provide exemption from customs and import duties on plants, machinery and accessories imported exclusively for mining operations.
He said government also granted permission to exporters of mineral products to retain part of their foreign exchange earnings into domicile account for purposes of acquiring spare parts and other mining inputs.
Meanwhile, NEITI investigations show that the prices used for the calculation of royalty payments in the sector were not the current market value thus leading to loss of huge revenue even as several factors, including illegal mining, inadequate investments and lax regulatory and monitoring have for decades prevented the solid mineral sector from attaining its full potentials.
AMETO AKPE, Abuja