The minister of mines and steel development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has disclosed that Nigeria will lift a ban on mining in Zamfara state by the end of March.
The minister, who made the disclosure to Reuters during a visit to London, assuring that the lift would be effected within the first quarter.
According to him, the ban would be lifted because a lot of genuine investors have indicated interest to invest in the state.
The minister said Nigeria has largely untapped deposits of minerals including gold, nickel, tin and zinc.
He said some 80 percent of mining in Nigeria is carried out on an artisanal basis and gold in Zamfara is routinely smuggled out of the country illegally to neighbouring Niger and Togo.
“About 500 kg of gold per month is illegally smuggled out of Nigeria.
“At current prices, this is worth about $25 million and implies millions in lost tax revenue and unpaid royalties,” he noted.
Mr Adegbite noted the government deployed a surveillance team to stifle illegal activity in the northwestern region.
The minister said the surveillance made it suspend operations in April on concerns that illegal mining was connected to a surge in banditry in the state.
“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,” he said.
Mr Adegbite however assured that the government had deployed a “surveillance team” to quell unrest and “discourage illegal activity”.