The Federal Government has announced that the ban placed on mining activities in Zamfara State will be lifted by the end of March. Mining activities was suspended in April last year after the government through its law enforcement agency cracked down on miners who engaged in illegal activities in the northwestern region; the minister of mines and steel development said.
The government suspended mining activities on concerns that illegal mining was connected to rising criminal activities and banditry in the state. Zamfara state was the worst hit by a wave of violence that killed and displaced thousands contributing to the human security challenges in Nigeria.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite during a visit to London told Reuters, “the ban is about to be lifted because a lot of genuine investors are ready to come (to invest) into Zamfara state,” adding this would happen “within the first quarter”.
“When the ban came into effect there were a lot of investors who were already putting in money had to stop … they are anxious to realise their investments.”
Adegbite noted that the government had deployed a surveillance team to stop the disruptions and discourage illegal activities. Nonetheless, the United Nation’s refugee agency said in September that worsening violence caused by organised armed groups had displaced about 40,000 people since the beginning of 2019. An armed group killed at least 34 people in attacks on villages in June.
About 80 per cent of mining activities in Nigeria are artisanal. Nigeria has rich deposits of untapped mineral resources including tin, gold, nickel, zinc, just to mention but a few. Gold in Zamfara state is regularly smuggled out of the country illegally to Niger Republic and Benin Republic.
About 500 kg of gold per month is illegally smuggled out of Nigeria, Adegbite said. At current prices, this is worth about $25 million and implies millions in lost tax revenue and unpaid royalties.
The minister further stated that the federal government has granted refining licences to local firms Kian Smith Trade & Co and Dukia Gold, which will have a combined capacity of 37 tonnes per year.
Nigeria’s central bank would purchase some of the gold.