A hundred and thirty-eight small scale miners requested an aggregate sum of N14.6 billion in credit from the Nigerian government to fund mining activities across Nigeria, N9.6 billion or 192 per cent bigger than the figure government earmarked for that purpose, Minister of Mines and Steel Development Olamilekan Adegbite said on Tuesday.
The Nigerian government had in 2017 set up the N5 billion Nigerian Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Financing Support Fund, a war chest planned to stimulate the expansion of informal mining across the country via a partnership between the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Bank of industry IBO.
The ministry and the BOI each contributed N2.5 billion to set the scheme for artisanal (small scale) miners in motion.
Adegbite told a workshop on accessing funding for small scale and artisanal miners in Abuja his ministry had completed registration for around 1,495 mining cooperatives dominated by 1,400 gold miners together with 368 mineral-buying outlets.
“Out of the 1,495 registered mining cooperatives, 140 are gold mining cooperatives. The North-West has the highest number of registered cooperatives, while the South-East has the least,” he said.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is looking the way of mining to diversify its income sources after earnings from crude, which contributes about 65 per cent of government revenues, got eroded by a record oil price slump in April and now faces increasing pressure, following a globally depressed demand particularly triggered by new lockdowns in Europe.
The government hopes to generate $500 million from gold mining every year, having lost $3 billion to illegal mining and smuggling in the past seven years.
“As of September 30, 2020, a total of 138 applications totalling N14.59bn was received by the fund and were at various stages of processing.
“So far 13 loan applications totalling N1.08bn have been approved under the fund. Out of this, the sum of N311m has been disbursed as at September 30, 2020,” Adegbite said.
The minister disclosed that the disbursement of the fund to artisanal and small scale miners was low, considering the size of the applications received because applicants fell short of the preconditions for accessing the credit.
He assured that the government was striving to get rid of the hassles artisanal (small scale) miners might face in getting the loan.