By Moses Nosike
Since he was made the Minister of Mines and Steel Development by President Buhari, architect Olamilekan Adegbite has been working hard to turn the nation into a major gold producing one.
With the price of gold hitting unprecedented heights since the pandemic began, Adegbite moves is bound to benefit the nation immensely. Just before the lockdown, the minister was at the stone laying ceremony of the Segilola Gold project, in Osun State by Thor exploration, a project which comprises a proposed open pit gold mining project based on an indicated mineral resource defined by a comprehensive drilling programme.
According to sources, the project will process 650,000 tons of ore, with a target production of approximately 80,000 ounces per year from next year. It was said that Adegbite has been actively supporting the project.
During the block laying ceremony, the minister noted that the government was willing to give waivers on equipment and taxes to major investors willing to invest in the sector.
“The Minister is overseeing the creation of a gold ecosystem in Nigeria. For the first time we have companies that mine and refine gold in Nigeria. Two gold refineries have been licensed who will refine the gold to international standards, which the CBN and other international investors can then buy,” says Ayodeji Adeyemi, special advisor on Media and publicity.
He added that the vision of the honourable minister is to make Nigeria a major gold producing nation, which would generate revenue for the government and create a lot of job”.
About two weeks ago, the first batch of artisanally-mined gold bars to be purchased by the Central Bank was unveiled at a reception ceremony to President Buhari on July 16, 2020.
This milestone is the culmination of 24 months of intense efforts by the leadership of Adegbite through the Solid Minerals Development Fund, Kebbi and Osun States government, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, and the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning under a Steering Committee led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
It was gathered that Nigeria has produced, for the first time ever, in June 2020, artisanally-mined gold that has been processed and refined according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standards required for the use of gold as a reserve instrument by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
This means that the Central Bank will be purchasing gold that has been mined, processed and refined under the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, PAGMI, for use as part of Nigeria’s external reserves.
Adegbite said in his speech that this milestone is a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to diversifying Nigeria’s economy and foreign reserves.
The Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (“PAGMI”) is a comprehensive artisanal and small-scale gold mining development programme, launched in 2019 to foster the formalization and integration of artisanal gold mining activities into Nigeria’s legal, economic and institutional framework.
“PAGMI has been designed to integrate social, environmental, health and safety, economic, commercial and technical considerations, into its implementation.
PAGMI is also designed as a broader strategy to address the structural and institutional factors such as rural poverty, lack of alternative livelihoods and difficulties in meeting legal and regulatory requirements that tend to push artisanal gold mining operators deeper into the informal economy”.
Background: Using data from UN Comtrade, PAGMI estimates that between 2012-2018, 97 tonnes of gold valued at over $3 billion was illegally smuggled out of Nigeria.
His Excellency, the President, approved PAGMI in 2019 to address these issues and foster the integration of artisanal gold mining into the formal system. PAGMI seeks to tackle and resolve these longstanding issues, while also contributing to President Buhari’s vision to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within a decade.
On how will PAGMI work, it was stated that the catalyst for the integration is the provision of access to markets for the artisanal miners through a National Gold Purchase Programme and the deployment of enhanced mining methods at artisanal and small-scale mining sites.
However, providing better access to markets through the National Gold Purchase Programme is only the first step in a comprehensive artisanal and small-scale gold mining development strategy integrating social, environmental, health and safety, economic, commercial, and technical considerations.
So, PAGMI will deploy safer and more efficient mining and processing technologies across artisanal mining locations across the country, starting with Kebbi and Osun states as the pilot states with intervention in Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger states to commence immediately after the pilot.
Using a centralized offtake and supply system supported by a decentralized aggregation and production network, PAGMI will buy all the gold produced by artisanal and small-scale miners and aggregated by licensed buying centers and aggregators for supply to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Which States are benefiting from PAGMI?
The main gold producing belt with history of artisanal workings and exploration activities in Nigeria will benefit from PAGMI. Intervention at artisanal mining sites will take place in Kebbi, Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger and Osun states respectively with Kebbi and Osun serving as pilot states.
PAGMI will also be setting up gold aggregation centers in addition to supporting licensed buying centers and aggregators with access to financing options, responsible sourcing mechanisms, management and technical expertise including improved testing and processing equipment.
What will PAGMI achieve?
PAGMI will result in the creation of over 500,000 new mining and formalized jobs, leading to poverty alleviation for more than 1 million households.
Wealth Creation: Under PAGMI, artisanal gold miners will earn more from higher productivity, better recovery rates, mechanization of operations, and better access to reliable geological information. Increased earnings for the miners will have significant spillover effects in the local economies as businesses will grow to cater to the increased consumption per household.
Agreements have been reached with Thermo Fisher Scientific and Mettler Toledo, leading producers of gold testing and weight equipment to equip up to 50 buying centers across the country.
Revenues: PAGMI estimates that the Federal Government of Nigeria could realize an annual average of $150 Million in taxes, $25 Million in royalties, and $500 Million accretion to foreign reserves from the integration of artisanal gold mining activities implemented by PAGMI.
Reserves: PAGMI will allow the Central Bank of Nigeria to purchase locally produced gold in Naira to boost the nation’s foreign reserves..
Health, Safety and Environmental Benefits: Effective implementation of PAGMI will help to control the use of lead, mercury, and cyanides. PAGMI will also improve the working condition of artisanal miners, thereby reducing the number of in-pit deaths that are seen on an annual basis.
Security: Illegal artisanal mining has fueled instability across gold mining regions with intelligence reports confirming a nexus between illicit gold mining and a rise in banditry.
For the first time ever, formalization driven by access to markets will give the artisanal gold miners a guaranteed pathway to prosperity. The greater transparency that PAGMI confers on the flow of financing in the sector will help diminish the incentives for criminality.
PAGMI successfully separated and refined silver from the gold mined by the artisanal miners, thereby delivering additional value to them.