The Federal Government said on Friday it would soon make it an offence for anyone to export unprocessed minerals out of the country.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, said in Lagos on Thursday at a Town Hall meeting with interest groups in the mining sector that government was taking the decision to stop the activities of some foreign nationals who have been taking unprocessed minerals though illegal routes out of the country.
The illegal activity, he said, had denied the country enormous amount of revenue that could have accrued to it through its vast mineral endowment.
The meeting was attended by representatives of local and international mining outfits, officials of federal, states and local governments, financial institutions, manufacturing companies, professional bodies, community organizations, security agencies and the civil society.
The minister agreed that the activities of some foreigners who take out unprocessed minerals had robbed the youth of the country of massive job opportunities in the sector.
He said the ministry was working with the Customs services and other relevant security agencies to make it illegal for anyone to take out unprocessed minerals.
Mr. Fayemi said while unauthorised export of unprocessed minerals was injurious to the economic plans of the government, the ministry's current focus was to ensure that operators set up plants in the country, process the minerals and then export the finished products.
"Taking out unprocessed minerals under any guise is unacceptable and we have taken a firm position on this.
"We will make it difficult for anybody to take out unprocessed minerals. We are working with the Customs and other relevel security agencies to put an end to this.
He said government would support and encourage operators to set up plants, process the minerals here and then export it.
The minister stated that the economic diversification and employment generation could only be realised with operators cooperating with government on the mining policy.
Speaking further, the minister said government was taking the security of mines more seriously, adding that a special task force has been put in place to check nefarious activities in mining sites and also to ensure compliance with environmental and security regulations.
He announced that the Nigeria Police had responded to the security issue with the establishment of Mines Division in all its state commands.
The Mine Police, which according to the minister, was structured after the Mine Police active in the 1960s and 1970s, would help to halt criminal activities in the sector.
Noting that the country has one of the best mining laws, he said enforcement had always been a challenge. He said many criminal-minded individuals had taken advantage of the poor enforcement to enrich themselves at the expense of the country.
Mr. Fayemi who lauded the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for the Mine Police initiative, urged artisans and operators in the country to comply with regulations guiding the mining sector, as contained in the Minerals and Mining Act 2007.