The Federal Government has revoked at least 5,793 inactive mining licences, investigation by The PUNCH has revealed.
Our correspondents learnt that the licences that were revoked included mining, exploration, quarry and small scale mining titles.
The PUNCH reported earlier that Federal Government issued more than 7,000 licences since the inception of the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office.
However, in an attempt to reposition the mining sector as a major source of revenue for the country, the Federal Government gathered a list of inactive mining titles for a long, rigorous revocation process.
Revoked licences not used, operators failed to start mining, says ministry official
A highly placed source in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development confirmed this to our correspondent.
According to the source, who spoke on condition anonymity, said the revocation of licences did not have a yearly pattern as the process was complicated and rigorous.
The source said from the inception of the cadastre office to February this year, 5,793 mining licences had been revoked.
The source said, “The revocation does not happen yearly because this is a complicated, rigorous process. Based on what we have; 5,793 licences have been revoked till date.
“From the inception of the office till February this year, this is the number we have.”
The source further affirmed that the use it or lose it policy of the Federal Government was still effective, adding that beyond not paying for the renewal of their licences, some licensees who failed to use their licences could get the licences taken from them.
“If they don’t use it, they lose it. When the licence gets revoked, it means they have lost it. Also, those who refuse to pay for their licences will lose it,” the source added.
Revocation of inactive licences is in line with provisions of the laws governing the mining sector.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office, Mr Simon Nkom, had in a PUNCH report, stated that the agency had revoked some inactive mining licences in line with its ‘use it or lose it’ approach.
He had said, “Use it or lose it helps to eliminate speculators. When we give you the licence you either use it or lose it.
“It is on that basis that we have been able to make the system attractive enough for investors so as to generate more revenue.”
One of our correspondents also examined some signed licence documents on the website of the Mining Cadastre Office.
The documents showed that from November 11, 2015 to June 30, 2021, the number of signed licences had dropped by 5,786.
The number of signed licences dropped from 6,650 signed licences as of November 11, 2015 to 1,122 signed licences as of June 30, 2021.
Revocation of inactive mining licences was a major recommendation in the report of the Ministerial Committee on Optimisation of Revenue from Mineral Resources.
Headed by Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uche Ogah, the committee was established in 2019 to develop strategies towards improving revenue generation from mineral exploitation.
In its report, the committee advised the ministry to direct the Mining Cadastre Office, the agency that supervises mining licences, to revoke all inactive mineral titles.
The committee stated that revocation of inactive licences would enable genuine investors with requisite capacity to acquire mining sites and invest in exploration and mining activities.
He, however, stated that the inability of miners to visit or set up structures on the licensed sites was not by choice but as a result of security challenges in the county as well as restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mohammed said, “The licences that have been revoked over the years have seriously affected miners in the country and as an association, we are not happy about it because it is affecting our businesses.
“The government has its reasons for revoking these licences. In most cases, if you are given a licence, there are some conditions for which you are given.
“If you do not comply with the regulations binding on the issued licence, definitely, the government has the right to revoke.
“However, I want you to understand the challenges of miners in the country. Mining activities in Nigeria has been badly affected by both the banditry, the insecurity and the kidnapping prevalent in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic is also a militating factor.
“These have made most of our miners to run away from the mining sites. And the law says if you are inactive and you are not making use of the mining licence, you are liable to revocation. That is why the government is revoking some of our licences.”
He added, “We are appealing to the government to tamper justice with mercy, in the sense that it is not as if we do not want to make use of the mining sites but because of these conditions.
“Nobody can go to the sites now for fear of being kidnapped and even the COVID-19 has made it impossible for a large number of people to congregate in one place.”
When questioned on the implication of the large number of revocations on the mining sector, Mohammed said the Federal Government revoked the licences to serve as a warning to erring miners and could reissue the licences if activities on the sites commenced.
He said, “While the interest of miners is paramount to me, I don’t support them in doing the wrong thing. Even if these conditions that hamper our activities are absent, some miners would still be inactive and there will still be revocation.
“There are some influential people that acquire many licences without revisiting the sites or setting up any structure. This would attract revocation of these licences.
“So, it is not as if the government intends to pull down the mining sector by revoking licenses but it is a form of sanction, a kind of wake up call to miners who are inactive.
“However, considering the fact that the issue of insecurity and the pandemic is very real, the government should soft-pedal on miners at the moment.”
The Federal Government, on its part, has been engaged in a number of activities to encourage more investors in the mining sector.
The government had tried to strengthen bilateral relations with countries, such as the UK, Korea and Russia to boost the Nigerian mining sector.
The Federal Government said as part of the Nigerian Mineral Exploration Project, it invested $50m on certain minerals to create visibility, adding that the data would be released to the market and auctioned to interested investors.
Also, with support from the World Bank, the government recently launched Airborne Geophysical Survey in 19 states.
The essence was to provide more data on the minerals in Nigeria in order to attract more investors with the collated data.