I am pleased to be with you this afternoon to mark this auspicious event of the world unveiling of the grassroots international sustainable mining initiative. This initiative is laudable and germane especially at this time when the federal government is on course to accomplish the diversification of the nation’s economic base. The mining sector holds a lot of potentials to generate more wealth; and unarguably much likely to create more job opportunities than the oil and gas sector. And so, mining and agricultural sectors have been identified as viable base for the economic diversification agenda of the present administration. This is why this initiative is apt because it aligns easily with our new focus to create enabling environment for inflow of investments into the Nigeria’s mining sector.
Mining, we all know, is the activity of extracting and processing economically valuable minerals. It also encompasses processing of the extracted minerals. However, for optimal benefits to be derived from mining, by government, host communities and the investors, all the activities associated with its processes, must conform to sustainable development principle. In this context, we ask ourselves this pertinent question: ‘‘are we creating policies that ensure establishments of mining projects development that guarantee economic prosperity anchored on sound environmental responsibility, social justice and cultural vibrancy?’’ This is imperative, if we must surmount the challenges of balancing the economic benefits of mining with its attendant negative externalities.
Ladies and gentlemen, sustainable mining concept put the welfare of the people as its central focus. It means mining with great degree of responsibility. It means mining with respect to people’s rights. It means mining to spur up economic growth in your host communities independent of your mining operations. Sustainable mining implies that for a company to mine successfully, it must be able to balance financial, social and environmental issues in order to engender sustainable livelihoods of the communities. Community engagements in all phases of mining activities is therefore crucial.
Whilst making spirited efforts to open the Nigerian mining sector, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is not oblivious of the need to engender sustainable mining principles in its policies and administration. The ministry has initiated various reforms to ensure the accomplishment of this objectives. With the enactment of a robust mining law that takes cognizance of community participation whilst creating increased opportunities for investors and environmental restoration; the mining sector is becoming increasingly attractive for prospective investments.
Just recently, the ministry launched the mining surveillance taskforce to control illegal mining activities. The ministry is also embarking on aggressive formalization exercise to organize the artisanal mining activities into legal and regulatory framework. The ministry has also initiated safer mining programme which comprised various activities including provision of extension services to mining cooperatives, environmental remediations, community sensitization on health and safety amongst others.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will not achieve much in our effort to accelerate development in the sector if we do not create enabling environment for the private sector to drive the industry. This explains why the ministry created an Integrated Automation and Interactive Solid Minerals Portal (IAISMP). The GO-TO portal allows access to real time information on Mining Sector in Nigeria anywhere in the world. Investors can now have access to information and make applications with ease. The ministry has gone ahead to collaborate with the Bank of Industry to float a loan support facility for Artisanal and Small-scale Miners to upscale their production to the level of junior mining companies.
The ministry understands the need for synergy and partnership in achieving common goals. That is why we instituted the National Council of Mining and Mineral Resources Development and created platforms for interactions with stakeholders with a view to spawning new innovative policies for the industry. In this regard, the ministry in collaborating with various development partners and agencies.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is therefore in recognition of the importance of fruitful partnership the Ministry is represented in this occasion. Our combined effort will help to foster sustainable development of the Nigerian mining sector, that we will all be proud of. It is my earnest hope that this initiative will achieve the objectives for which it was established for the accomplishment of our common goal of uplifting the Nigerian mining industry to create job opportunities, spur up industrial growth and generate wealth for our country.