This was disclosed by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, at the NAN forum in Abuja on Sunday.
The Minister disclosed that the mining sector was ignored by the Federal Government after oil was discovered, which made it possible for artisanal miners to venture into the sector.
“Right now, many Nigerians are into artisanal mining and this was caused by the fact that when oil was discovered, Nigeria moved away from mining, which was the mainstream of the economy.
“Before oil and gas, Nigeria relied on coal and tin; we were exporting and were indeed, quoted on the London Metal Exchange.
“And that is basically what was giving Nigeria money in those days before oil came but when oil came, we moved away. We left mining behind,” he said.
READ: Aviation Minister orders airline operators to ensure rights of persons with disabilities
He added that the most mined commodity in Nigeria by artisanal miners is gold, which has created a lucrative black market for international buyers. He also said that with the AfCFTA, documentation of mining exports would be required, reducing illegal outflows.
“Gold is the most traded mineral in Nigeria and these people mine gold and get nuggets. There are several thousands of such miners, when you aggregate what they mine, it comes in large volume and several kilos of gold,” he said.
“To know the extent of the money they make in the gold business, they hire private jets to take them out illegally because they realise a lot of money.
“At the rate gold is selling, one ounce of gold is selling for $2,200 and by the time you carry a thousand kilogrammes, you are making several billions of naira.
“But with AfCFTA coming into effect, we hope that other countries will cooperate with Nigeria because now it is a free trade but there is documentation,” he added.
READ: Gold prices suffer worst week in four months
The Minister said that with AfCFTA going into effect, the FG hopes it will help stem the problem because Nigeria is supposed to trade freely with Africa with documentation.
“We hope that other countries will cooperate with Nigeria. I will not allow such illegal activity to go on within those countries,” he said.
In case you missed it: Tropics Nigeria also reported that the Mining Minister said a Nigerian-Canadian company, mining gold in Nigeria’s Osun State looks set to commence the exportation of gold in June this year.