The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, on Thursday in Abuja said addressing illegal mining would be one of the priorities of the ministry in 2017.
Fayemi stated this while defending the ministry’s 2017 Budget of N23.2 billion before members of House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals.
He said that the ministry planned to establish a safer mining technique centre to promote safe mining in the country.
“This is important to us because we have had to deal with incidents of lead poison that confronted small-scale informal miners.
“We believe that we need to begin to develop a process that can also serve as a training opportunity for people who want to engage in small-scale mining.
“We are to support these people who are doing this thing as anti-poverty strategy by building a skill base and provide them with tools and also, with education,’’ he said.
The minister added that the ministry earmarked N500 million for research development and collaboration with universities.
According to him, there is need to build a strong synergy between the industry, the ministry and research institutions geared towards improved mining methods.
“We believe it is time for us to develop and strengthen that partnership in order for them to be of value to us,’’ he added.
Fayemi said that there was high rate of tax evasion in the country’s solid mining sector, adding that the ministry earmarked N171 million in the budget to recruit revenue consultants.
According to him, the only way to address the tax evasion is to recruit people who will incentivise to help us investigate what has happened.
“We are doing audit of the last five years and we will build a consistent mechanism that will allow federal mining officers in the states to work with these independent consultants in revenue generation. “But we have to pay to make it work well,’’ he said.
The minister explained that the ministry’s projection for revenue during the year was N3.1 billion, adding that this would be focused on royalties and fees.
Fayemi said that N8.7 billion was for personnel cost while overhead cost would get N1.5 billion and capital vote, N12.8 billion.
A member of the committee, Rep. Mohammed Onawo, said that the estimate was inadequate to implement the diversification plan of the Federal Government.
“If we are going to leverage on this ministry to diversify, Federal Government has to do more to help the ministry.
“Miners are not encouraged, so government has to help them to reduce the influx of illegal miners in the country,’’ Onawo said.