Federal Government has initiated training for local miners in the country to enable them improve production and access its N5 billion loan facility, an official said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government contributed N2.5 billion and the Bank of Industry (BoI) contributed another N2.5 billion, totaling N5 billion loan for local miners.
Mr Patrick Ojeka, the Director of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development disclosed this to NAN on the sideline of a four-day training for local miners in Port Harcourt on Friday.
Ojeka represented by Mr Etido Umoakpan, an official in the ministry, said that the programme was organised to provide extension services to mining cooperatives, small scale miners and quarry associations in the South-south region.
“The event is one of the Federal Government’s obligations as enshrined in the 2007 Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act to provide extension services for artisanal and small-scale miners.
“So, we are here to introduce to the miners, the various aspects of mining such as: safety, health procedures and how they can carry their mining activities in a safe and sustainable way.
“We are also teaching them more techniques to improve their production; how to market their businesses and how to access the N5billion loans from the Federal Government and the BoI,” he said.
Ojeka said that ASM operations were carried out in the 36 states and the FCT with over 500,000 people directly involved in the industry.
According to him, the government is passionate toward increasing production of minerals, to enhance the nation’s GDP and earn foreign exchange through export of the minerals.
“However, the feedback we are getting from the miners is in the area of multiple taxations; the difficulty in accessing the loans and lack of adequate equipment.
“The ministry is already looking into some of the challenges raised by the miners on multiple taxations by government agencies and also looking at softening the conditions for the loan.
“We have also told them that there are times when the government gives grants that are non-refundable – which may not be physical cash but in the form of machinery,” he said.
The director also said that government was also planning to provide extension services to miners in areas of prospecting and exploration services, mineral testing and data for proven mineral reserves.
He listed others as mining design and planning; provision of teaching equipment and plant for hire and regular workshops for miners, to improve their knowledge and skills.
One of the participants, Mr Odey Wilfred, thanked the Federal Government for organising the workshop and pleaded with the government to address the challenges of multiple taxations.
Odey, a sand and gravel miner, also called on the government to soften the stringent conditions placed on the N5billion loan facilities approved for miners.
“Providing small scale miners’ access to finance our operation will enable us to expand our business as well as employ more hands, thereby reducing current unemployment.
“Currently, we have over 700 employees working with us, including loaders, drivers and marketers among others in other professional fields.
“So, we urgently want the government to come to our aid and provide us the needed support,” he said.