Olamilekan Adegbite, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development says perpetrators of illegal mining in Nigeria are mostly foreigners.
Mr Adegbite made this known to newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said that all illegal mining happening in Nigeria could be traced to foreigners that came into the country illegally or with extraction permits for another purpose.
“Illegal mining is an issue in Nigeria, the foreigners hide under the artisanal miners to operate mining illegally; they give artisanal miners equipment and little money to mine for them.
“Some of these foreigners came into our country with extraction permits for another purpose but they ended up mining minerals illegally, while some came in through borders.
“But we have put measures in place to check illegal mining activities going on in the country.
“Artisanal miners are not illegal miners, they are doing mining through subsistence means to enable them put food on their tables. We cannot call them illegal miners or criminalised them.
“The ministry has a department called Artisanal and Small Scale Department; it is in charge of training and making incentives available to artisanal miners to win them over from illegal foreign miners.
“We are encouraging the artisanal mines to take every mineral they mined to mineral buying centres established by the government and they will be paid adequately by doing this; we are isolating them from illegal foreign miners,” he added.
According to the minister, President, Muhammadu Buhari also set up a mining police comprising Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Army Staff, National Security Advisers among others to address illegal mining across the country.
“We are working with the ministry of interior to also check the activities of illegal foreign miners and how they came into the country through the immigration.
“We are encouraging the artisanal mines to take every mineral they mined to mineral buying centres established by the government and they will be paid adequately and by doing this we are isolating them from illegal foreign miners.”
He said that COVID-19 pandemic affected every sector including the mining sector as artisanal and small scale miners were unable to mine during the shutdown.
“COVID- 19 affected our local miners, so government provided fund for the ministry from which we reached out to the artisanal miners as palliative to help them get back on their feet or sustain them.”
He commended President, Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts to revive and put the mining sector on the right track.
“A lot of people might not appreciate his efforts now because what he is doing now ought to have been done long time ago, especially when Nigeria oil was sold at 140 dollars to a barrel.
“The president is putting money where it matters mostly, that is infrastructure, he is putting money in agriculture as well; so, the economy is on the right course.’’