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Alake seeks Senate’s support for exploration funding

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The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake has solicited the support of the Senate for an increase in funding for the ministry to enhance its capacity to carry out detailed exploration of the nation’s vast mineral deposits.

Speaking during the opening session of the investigative hearing of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Alake identified the twin issues of poor funding for exploration and insecurity as the main challenges hampering the development of the mining sector whilst limiting its role as the pivot of diversification of the economy.

Alake bemoaned the country’s low investment in mining exploration. $ 2.5 million was invested last year, citing figures from Standard & Poor’s report.

Standard & Poor, a global rating agency, had ranked Nigeria’s exploration budget 12th in Africa and placed Ivory Coast in the top position with $147 million.

“When we compare the exploration budgets of other African countries with ours, it is depressing.  According to Standard & Poor, as of 2023, Nigeria’s investment in exploration was $2.5 million dollars against $147m of Ivory Coast and $133m in Congo. In our determination to compete, we had proposed a budget of N70 billion to invest in exploration that would cover the entire Nigerian landscape. Going by the budget of the Year 2024, our capacity to move at our desired speed may be undermined. We need your support to fund exploration and kit our personnel to regulate the sector, “Alake asserted.

Highlighting efforts to combat illegal mining, the Minister informed the senators about the recently unveiled 2,220-man strong Mining Marshals, with 60 operatives deployed in each state of the federation and the FCT.

According to the Minister, there are at least four categories of illegal miners: the unlicensed miners; licensed miners mining outside their Cadastral Units; licensed miners mining minerals different from what they are authorised to mine and miners mining with licenses exclusively restricted to Nigerians. The country loses over $9bn to illegal mining yearly, the Minister said.

Aside from the mining marshals representing the kinetic response to combat illegal mining, Alake revealed ongoing advocacy through Artisanal and Small Miners (ASM) extension officers and the launch of a campaign on radio spanning at least 113 radio stations across the country that will not only discourage the menace but also urge artisanal miners to form cooperatives and enjoy benefits of legalisation. At the last count, 152 cooperatives have already been formed across the country, in line with the Minister’s 7-point Agenda.

In line with the new value-addition policy of the Federal Government, Alake hinted at the imminent establishment of six (6) more processing centres across the geo-political zones, stressing that efforts to effectively equip the mining marshal and other reforms of the ministry will require legislative backing for necessary statutes and improved funding.

Declaring the investigative hearing open, Senate President, Sen. Godswill Akpabio lauded the Minister for personally attending the public hearing, noting that his presence indicated the commitment of the presidency to making solid minerals the fulcrum of diversification of the economy.

Sen. Akpabio advocated concerted efforts by the executive and legislature to ensure resources frittered away through illegal mining and other nefarious activities are curtailed.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals Development, Senator Ekong Sampson in his remarks stated that the 3-day investigative hearing is hinged on unravelling challenges hampering the development of the mining sector despite the vast mineral deposits across the country.

“We want to look at the challenges and see what we can do, together with the executive, to address these bottlenecks and ensure that solid minerals contribute substantially to our economy. Nigeria is blessed with vast mineral deposits. The time is now to harness these God-given resources for the benefit of all Nigerians, “Sen. Sampson added.

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