Over 40 journalists gathered in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, last week, where they committed to championing the rights of solid minerals’ mining host communities.

The President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led government is keen on reforming the mining sector after years of uncertainty in that area.

Before the discovery of oil in 1956, mining of solid minerals was a key driver of the country’s economy, but it was completely abandoned for years, leading to its hijack by artisanal miners and unlicensed companies.

At the training session organised by Global Rights, a non-governmental organisation, the stakeholders urged journalists to rise in defence of neglected host communities who were bearing the brunt of the activities of artisanal and unlicensed miners, as well as some unethical practices in the sector.

The training provided opportunity for the journalists from different organisations across the country to pledge commitment towards pushing for the rights of mining host communities.

Executive Director of Global Rights, Abiodun Baiyewu, who declared the two-day training open, said the media were very strategic in championing host communities’ rights.

Represented by the Program Manager of Global Rights, Mr Edosa Oviawe, the Executive Director said the neglect some host communities of solid minerals were facing was worrisome.

He said solid minerals were contributing to banditry and other forms of insecurity, stressing that despite its critical role in the past, the sector had suffered decades of neglect.

Oviawe added that, “the federal government’s lack of attention to solid minerals gave rise to states and individuals hijacking the sector.

“Mining sector played a critical role in Nigeria before the advent of oil and gas, but that same sector has suffered decades of neglect.”

He blamed the declined attention to the solid minerals sector on the discovery of oil and the civil war, which he said led to the shutdown of mining sites and the evacuation of foreign mining expatriates from the southern part of the country.

Edosa, who made a case for ethical mining, said the government and the mining companies must be held accountable for host communities’ rights.

“Hence, promoting ethical mining practices is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic imperative for maximising the sector’s contribution to Nigeria’s socio-economic advancement,” he said.

He said ethical mining practices prioritises environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic viability, adding that it “minimises the negative impacts of mining activities on the environment, local communities, and workers while maximising the benefits for all stakeholders involved.”

He identified key principles of ethical mining to include: Environmental Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Health and Safety, Fair Labor Practices, Transparency and Accountability, as well as Compliance with Laws and Regulations.

On action steps towards ensuring ethical mining, Edosa advocated “strengthening regulatory frameworks and enforcement mechanisms, enhancing transparency and accountability in revenue management, investing in research and development of sustainable mining technologies. promoting community engagement and empowerment through capacity building and revenue-sharing agreements and encouraging responsible investment and respect for Community Development Agreements, CDAs.

Also speaking, another resource person, Tsema Ede, a natural resource governance expert, said the Mines Inspectorate Department, Mines Environmental Compliance Department, Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Department and Mining Cadastre Office (MCO) were agencies of government saddled with the responsibility of regulating mining activities.

She, however, harped on the operation of Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO), disclosing that “Section 19 of the Act provides for the establishment for each state, a committee to be known as the Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committees (MIREMCOs)”.

She said MIREMCOs were well positioned to ensure the protection of host communities’ rights.

Tsema, however, regretted that MIREMCOs were not operational in several states, urging journalists to take up the task of challenging the situation.

According to her, “it is in the interest of the state to build their (MIREMCOs) capacities on the provisions of the Act and their implementation; the ECOWAS Mining Directive; the Africa Mining Vision; Mining host community rights; the basics of geology and mining; Model communities developed alongside mining.”

Ahmed Abdulsamad of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, NRGI, spoke on ‘Managing Nigeria’s Critical Minerals to Avoid the Green Resource Curse’.

He said Nigerian energy transition should be clear about the role of critical minerals.

He identified ‘resource curse’ as the significant social, economic and political challenges that were unique to countries rich in oil, gas and minerals.

According to him, “Many oil-gas and mineral-rich countries have failed to reach their full potential as a result of their natural resource wealth.

“In general, they are also more authoritarian, more prone to conflict, and less economically stable than countries without these resources.”

While noting that corruption was also a major challenge in the sector, he said the NRGI had carried out a lot of research over the past years into corruption in the extractives sector, stressing that “we’ve identified key forms of corruption across the decision chain and thematic topics,” particularly in the areas of licensing, revenue collection, and socio-environmental harm.

On how to protect local communities, Ahmed advocated strong commitments to regular, sustained and meaningful stakeholder engagement, including the rights of other marginalised groups, which he said were an essential safeguard against corruption.

“Stakeholders should ensure that the rules and regulations around such consultations are transparent, widely known and enforced.

“This engagement should be supported with strong transparency measures, including: publication of gender-responsive environmental and social impact assessments, approvals and management plans; monitoring data; documentation of consultations; community agreements; and access to local grievance mechanisms that incorporate UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights effectiveness criteria.

“Support should also be given to environmental studies that assess whether new mining projects will contribute to local or regional vulnerability to climate change, for example through depleting local water sources,” he further stated.

Earlier, Emmily Offodile, founder ZIVA Community Initiative told the journalists that the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, passed into law on March 16, 2007, which repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999, regulates the exploration and exploitation of solid materials in Nigeria.

She said the Act was all-encompassing and urged journalists to utilise it as they work towards the protection of host communities’ rights.

She said some state governments were struggling over the control of mining sites, but that such action was not in line with the letters of the Mining Act.

The Act, Offodile said, “provides for penalties related to various offences, including: Illegal mining; False and misleading statements in applications for mineral titles; False or non-declaration of important information; Smuggling of minerals; Use of false or fraudulent scales; Misrepresentation and Unlawful interference or obstruction.”

She further revealed that the Act enacts a regime of mandatory Community Development Agreement, CDA, negotiation between minerals exploration and production companies and the communities within and around which they operate.

“Through CDAs, companies must engage with communities to address their needs, concerns, and aspirations.

“This ensures that mining activities benefit the local population and contribute to community development.

“CDAs provide a platform for community participation in decision-making.

“Host communities have a say in how mining operations are conducted, environmental protection measures, and benefit-sharing arrangements.

“By involving communities, the Act aims to foster cooperation and minimise conflicts,” she noted.

Mining: Stakeholders rally journalists to champion host communities’ rights

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