Artisanal, or small scale miners, have denied links between their activities and insecurity in parts of the country.
Recent reports had linked artisanal miners to the escalation of banditry and killings in the country, particularly Zamfara State, where hundreds of lives have been lost in attacks on local communities by bandits.
But the miners, under the aegis of the Small Scale and Artisanal Miners Association of Nigeria, on Thursday, faulted the reports.
They spoke when a delegation of Nigerian miners, led by a former governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda, met with the ministers in charge of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
The groups include the Small Scale and Artisanal Miners Association of Nigeria, Women in Mining in Nigeria, Gold Dealers Association of Nigeria, Miners for Buhari and Osinbajo and Quarry and Sand Dredgers Association.
The chairman of the small scale and artisanal miners union, Alhaji Nasiru Wada, said, “The connection between small scale mining and insecurity in the country is an erroneous impression. We don’t want our members to be unduly victimised. We are here to express our commitment to work with the Federal Government.”
Wada also urged the government to engage the miners to end what he described as “uncontrolled export of solid minerals” from the country.
Yuguda, who was also a former Minister of Aviation, stressed that the miners came to introduce themselves as ‘major stakeholders’ in the mining sector.
The former governor explained that he was passionate about mining, noting that his experiences in the public and private sectors had convinced him that he could make a difference in the mining industry.
Yuguda added that solid minerals could contribute even more than agriculture to the country’s coffers.
Responding, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah, said the ministry would ensure that miners were reckoned with in the country.
“Mining (of solid minerals) came before oil exploration. We (ministers) don’t know much about mining but with your support we are at home,” he told the miners.