Owing to the fact that the vast majority of extractable mineral reserves in the country are yet untapped, a senior geologist, Benjamin Ukwuteyinor, has called for reforms in the sector.
He said geological and geophysical data on solid minerals in Nigeria were grossly inadequate, adding that the geoscientific data help in delineating mineral locations, among others, which are are needed to attract prospective investors to the sector.
Most local private investors , he noted, lacked the financial capacity to fund mineral exploration, which is the requisite for solid mineral exploration/exploitation.
The Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), among other government agencies, charged with the responsibility to generate geoscientific data are not adequately funded and equipped with sophisticated machineries to execute their statutory obligations, Ukwuteyinor bewailed.
More so, the geologist adduced the proliferation of artisanal/illegal miners as an effect of the government not being responsive enough in creating the enabling environment for multinational companies to invest in the solid mineral sector.
This he said necessitated the engagement of land owners and rural dwellers around the vicinity of mineral deposits into artisanal and illegal mining to make a living, "as one would not expect them to fold their armsand watch the wealth lying beneath them."
A quarry administrative manager, Mr. Adeyinka Shoyode, suggested that the government should first study and address the challenges facing the sector before demanding for taxes and other forms of revenue from operators. High cost of machineries, Shoyode bemoaned, inflates the running cost of miners as this is a primary factor in production.
Proffering solutions, Ukwuteyinor suggested that accurate geoscientific data should be generated by relevant agencies for all viable mineral resources and there should be a one stop database for solid minerals, clearly documented, made flexible and accessible to prospective investors and all stakeholders.
Payment for data of economic interest, he said, should be made payable both online and via revenue collection desk and information that borders on national security could be filtered out.
Ukwuteyinor opined that funds in form of soft loans and grants should be made available to solid mineral investors at the stage of exploration, and early stages of mining, adding that they would pay back when active mining/sales begins.
The geologist also suggested that government should provide infrastructure such as roads, stable electricity supply and adequate security around mining areas.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) surveys, he said, should be enforced on mining companies and reports scrutinised by supervisory ministries, adding that where hazards are detected, companies must be compelled to do the needful. On mine closures, companies and government should cooperate to carry out site restoration/rehabilitation as best practices entail, he advised.
The Mining Act as reviewed in 2007 which gave sole ownership to the Federal Government should be repealed, the geologist said, adding that: "Today, state governments are after mining companies in their state for revenues, royalties, and even permits, thus leading to double taxation.
"There should be a policy that stimulates issues of taxation to the three tiers of government and it should be enforced."