Following the move by the federal government to standardise artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the North as well as Osun State, observers in the Niger Delta are pleading with the federal government to adapt the policy to oil refining in the South-South region of the country.
Environmental campaigner, Dumnamenem Fineface, an advocate of modular refineries for Niger Delta youths, said young people of the region that genuinely desire honest living had found it challenging to create modular refining units.
He noted that they have to raise $50,000 to obtain a license and acquire 10 to 15 hectares of land, before seeking an investor to purchase a $150m to $250m modular refining unit.
It will be recalled that the federal government, through Vice President Yemi Osibajo, had promised that youths of the region would be empowered to own modular refineries.
The government had kept mum since then, returning in January 2020 to instruct artisanal refiners in the oil-polluted region to form cooperatives and obtain modular refinery licenses.
“In 2017 there was a pronouncement to the fact that licenses would be given. In January 2020, there was a pronouncement from the government that youths should be registered in cooperatives and come forward to get a license for modular refineries,” Fineface recalled. “The process has been very tedious.”
He added, “The youths, who are involved in artisanal refining here, can’t afford 10 to 15 hectares of land. They cannot survey the lands. They cannot construct a modular refinery which costs between $150m to $200m. They also do not have the $50,000 that is needed to obtain a license to operate.
“Since the policy for the licensing of illegal miners in the North and Osun states has been approved, the same thing should be extended here – the Niger Delta.”
While the presidency left its promise to the Niger Delta unfulfilled, it implemented its plans for the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI).
Environmental expert, Jesse Manufor, is surprised that the federal government has not extended the PAGMI initiative to the Niger Delta.
“I don’t know what has happened to the New Niger Delta Initiative announced by the vice-president three years ago,” Manufor said. “There hasn’t been any detailed work put into legalising artisanal refining.
“The Niger Delta people should ask ‘why is the thing done for gold not done for oil?’ This would help us to understand why to know what to push for.”
SaharaReporters, New York