Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital and New Media, Tolu Ogunlesi has addressed what he describes as misconceptions surrounding the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, PAGMDI.
Some Nigerians have argued that the government is being biased granting resource control to gold miners in some ststes while acting cowardly for crude oil in the Niger Delta.
Ogunlesi in a series of tweets explained that the basic principles applied to oil and gas in Nigeria similarly covers solid minerals.
According to him the two sectors belong to the exclusive list and revenues accuring from it will go into the Federation account belonging to the three tiers of government.
He said Mining revenues, including gold, also go into Federation Account. And solid minerals-producing States also get 13% derivation. Unlike oil and gas that has 9 producing States, solid minerals are far more widely distributed.
Addressing some of the misconceptions, he said, “There’ve been attempts to portray gold mining in Nigeria as a “Northern” thing. This is FALSE. Nigeria’s Gold Belt actually stretches across several parts of the North West and SOUTH WEST, as well as several smaller occurrences outside of these two regions.
“Also, investors & participants in gold mining operations come from every part of Nigeria. One of the 2 licensed gold refineries (under construction) in Nigeria in Ogun State. Other one is in FCT. The biggest gold exploration project currently is in Osun.
“Another big misconception is the comparison between artisanal and small scale miners (ASM) on the one hand, and the illegal oil refineries of the Niger Delta. There’s no basis for comparison. One has a legal basis, the other doesn’t. I’ll explain.
“People hear ‘Artisanal and Small Scale Mining’ and think it’s a synonym for illegal mining. It’s not. The laws of Nigeria recognize Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining. They work with holders of valid mining Licenses/Titles, host communities, and authorized buyers of solid minerals.
“The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development atually has a Department for Artisanal and Small Scale Mining. These artisanal miners are legally recognized – and supported – as long as they work with validly licensed players in the mining sector.
“That’s different from illegal miners – who can be small, medium or large scale – and are not licensed. Hence “illegal”. They’re the mining equivalent of the Niger Delta’s illegal – unlicensed – refineries. The illegality means they are liable to clampdown, arrest & prosecution.
“So that point about licensing is important. All legal mining operations in Nigeria – whether oil and gas or solid minerals – must be licensed. In oil and gas, DPR issues the licenses. In solid minerals, it’s the MCO – the Mining Cadastre Office (MCO). The DPR of solid minerals.
“So that idea that PAGMI is somehow a concession to illegal mining is wholly false. It’s not true at all. All the participants in PAGMI must be licensed. The law recognizes artisanal miners, but also requires that they be affiliated/working with validly licensed players”, he added.
On the Comparison between oil and gas alongside mineral mining, the president’s aide stressed that it had no basis.
He said, “Licenses for the exploration and mining of all natural resources in Nigeria, whether oil and gas, or solid minerals, are issued by the Federal Government, not States. Always keep this in mind. And anyone who meets the requirements is entitled to apply for a license.
PAGMI will only support LICENSED small-scale miners, mining cooperatives, & registered Mineral Buying Centres. It has no business with illegal/unregistered players
The model also not unique to Nigeria. Other countries practice similar models, supporting artisanal miners.
President Buhari had on July 16 launched its first ever artisanal gold locally mined gold bars by Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, PAGMDI.
During the presentation Buhari pledged his commitment to establish gold refineries in Nigeria which according to him would support efforts at creation of jobs for Nigerians, diversifying the revenue base, and improving foreign exchange reserves.
These operations, he said will help in diversifying Nigeria’s revenue base. The sale of gold by artisanal miners and SMEs at accredited centers will help the government in realizing royalties and taxes from the sale of these assets.
‘‘These developments will also help in improving our foreign reserves by enabling the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase the amount of gold in its reserves”, he added.