Indications emerged on Thursday that the Federal Government would no longer issue licences for small scale mining to foreign businessmen and companies.
Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of mines and steel development, gave the hint at a meeting with the Mining and Solid Minerals Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Abuja.
The LCCI group had in a position paper they presented to the minister, urged the Federal Government to keep foreigners out of small scale mining in the country.
They equally asked the Federal Government to utilise provisions of Executive Order 5 to “flush out” illegal foreigners operating in the country’s mining sector.
Adegbite said he agreed with the submission that foreigners should not be issued licences for small scale mining.
The minister explained that foreigners who are currently engaged in small scale mining, most of whom are Asians, ventured into the business after buying over hitherto idle licences held by Nigerians.
Noting that the Federal Government was not happy with the situation, the minister said some of the Nigerians who transferred their licences to the foreigners have been arrested.
Others who are yet to be apprehended would also be brought to book, Adegbite said.
“We are trying to clean up that act so that only Nigerians can operate at that level (small scale mining). While we can’t change the law on transfer of title we have to do something about that,” he added.
Adegbite stressed that the Federal Government wants to attract the right sort of investors in the mining sector.
Chairman of the LCCI mining and solid minerals group, Otunba Babatunde Alatise, had earlier insisted that the only foreigners that should be allowed in the sector should be ‘big miners and investors’.
“Focus should be on attracting the big miners and investors to our climes so that activities in the sector will be increased.
“Care should be taken to attract the right kind of investments, small scale mining leases should remain the exclusive reserve of Nigerians while foreign investors should pursue mining leases, beneficiation and smelting plants,” he said.
Alatise further observed that foreigners should be made to provide support to local miners by way of equipment leasing and sales.
“This is the area that needs much more attention,” he added.
The LCCI mining and solid minerals group had also asked the Federal Government to allow Nigerian businessmen to engage in the exportation of explosives, particularly within the continent.
They asked for incentives, especially import duty waiver on mining equipment and heavy-duty vehicles.
The group, in the same vein, appealed for a lift of the ban placed on mining activities in Zamfara State and parts of the North-West, a development which they said had led to huge losses for miners.
The Federal Government had suspended mining in the state after artisanal miners were linked to insecurity in the area.
Adegbite said he will meet the National Security Adviser over the ban on mining activities in Zamfara, but he noted that security considerations might make it difficult for the government to allow the exportation of explosives.