The minister, Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, says mining can generate revenue, as well as result in severe macroeconomic and social problems for both the government and host mining communities.
Speaking at the “7th Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI)’’ Conference in Abuja Fayemi, who was represented at the two-day program organised by the Nigeria Extractives Industry Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) by his Technical Adviser on Policy and Governance, Mrs Amanda Feese-Ideh said that mining had the potential to lift people and countries out of poverty due to its vast foreign exchange and fiscal revenues generated.
According to the minister, mining can also increase inequality and trigger exacerbate conflict.
“In mining, the potential for conflict is almost certain because of its nature and inherent impact on the environment and people’s livelihoods, health, and safety.
“Several structural and contextual factors are responsible for triggering conflict in mineral rich countries, particularly those that are already experiencing fragility and conflict,’’ he said.
He said that a key structural factor could result from macroeconomic policies that only focused on increasing Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into mining at the detriment of the human rights of host mining communities.
He added that a key contextual factor could also arise from poorly designed and implemented mineral strategies that focused on attracting FDIs and not on sharing of economic prosperity.
According to him, there is a strong correlation between a rise in investment in exploration and mining and conflict incidences.
He explained that increase in investment triggers conflict incidences associated with environment and land issues in host mining communities, particularly when their rights to participate in decision making around those investments were repressed.
The minister said apart from conflict that could be triggered by the introduction of a formal large-scale mining industry, a lot of conflict could also lead to fights over control of one mineral resource.
“We are working hard to ensure that the ongoing conflicts in Zamfara, Birnin-Gwari, and Plateau and other locations do not escalate into mineral-associated conflicts.
“A key policy decision faced by many governments is whether to promote mining sector development, postpone or avoid development to prevent violent conflicts and all other negative impacts.
“This is why designing a sector strategy that equally balances economic and social objectives and addresses the structural and contextual that triggers conflict is important,’’ he said.
He said the ministry policy thrust in its robust Roadmap for the growth and development of the mining sector launched in 2017 balances these objectives.
“Our aspiration is to build a world class minerals and mining ecosystem to serve a targeted domestic and export market.
“In the roadmap, we set a target to increase the mining Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by three per cent by 2025 from 0.33 per cent in 2015.’’
However, he said that the ministry was mindful of the negative impacts that could arise from increased mining investment in communities, states, and the national economy.
He, therefore, said that the ministry reform objectives extended beyond generating revenues for the government, creating job opportunities but also minimising the inherent conflict that could arise in the country because of mining boom in the future.
the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Abdulkadir Muazu, said that the conference was timely, especially as agriculture and solid minerals sectors were the focal areas of diversification by the present administration.
Muazu, represented by Mr Salim Salaam, the Director, Mines Environmental Compliance Department in the ministry, called for synergy among the three tiers of government to avoid conflicts on minerals control.
On women participation in mining, some of the women that attended the conference urged the government to involve women in the affairs of mining at the federal level.
They stressed the need for women to stand by one another and speak with one voice to ensure their involvement in governance, adding that they were lagging behind in every sector in Nigeria compared to other countries.
Some said that women should encourage themselves to participate in mining activities, especially on the field rather than just being only a wife and producing children.