FG Intensifies Crackdown On Illegal Miners, Regrets $9bn Losses

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By Aliyu Galadima

Federal Government has disclosed it is stepping up crackdown on illicit mining, having detained scores of unlicensed miners since April on suspicion of stealing lithium, a vital mineral used in batteries for power systems, cellphones, and electric cars. 

The government stated that the country’s Gross Domestic Product loses about $9 billion annually from solid minerals theft.

Consequently, the recent arrests coincided with government’s efforts to control the extraction of vital minerals, suppress illicit activities, and maximise the country’s mineral riches. The world’s need for lithium, tin, and other minerals has increased due to the clean energy transition, which is moving away from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas and towards renewable energy and batteries.

A mining document from the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, where the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Dele Alake, said that the sector was plagued by illegal mining due to widespread corruption among regulatory authorities and the remote locations of mineral reserves with little government presence. 

In the mining document, the Minister explained that money made from illegal mining operations had armed militias in the county’s North, causing havoc and other destruction to the communities.

The document revealed that the most recent arrests took place in mid-May after a combined military and police force raided a remote market in Kishii, parts of Oyo State. The market, formerly known for selling agricultural goods, is now the hub for illegal trade in lithium that is mined in remote locations. 

According to Alake, the three-day operation resulted in the arrest of 32 people, including two Chinese nationals, local laborers, and mineral traffickers with ithium loads.

The document quoted the leader of the Kishi community, Jimoh Bioku, as saying that Chinese nationals had previously conducted “clandestine searches” for the mineral at isolated locations tucked away in the woods before “they engaged people to dig for them and turned the market into a transit point”.

“We reported to the state government because we were particularly worried about the insecurity that usually follows illegal mining”, he said, expressing the community’s concerns.

The document showed that as at last year, Chinese miners were paying terrorists to get entry, with the embassy issuing a statement last year that it “always encouraged and urged the Chinese companies and nationals in Nigeria to abide by the laws and regulations of Nigeria”.

Recall that in April, a Federal High Court in Ilorin, Kwara State, found two Chinese nationals guilty of engaging in illicit mining and sentenced them to one year in prison, with the possibility of an out-of-court settlement.

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