MINISTER of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has restated the urgent need for states and local governments to commence registration of artisanal miners operating in their domain in the bid to ensure safer mining environment and improve revenue. He also urged states to domesticate the Child Right Act, so as to discourage the use of children for illegal mining activities. Dr Kayode Fayemi, made the call on Tuesday at Muye Kafinkoro Village, Paikoro Local Government Area, Niger State, where he had gone to visit a mining site, where illegal mining activities recently claimed four lives. Fayemi, who was accompanied by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Hon Abubakar Bawa Bwari, lamented the unfortunate incident, where a mango tree fell and killed four out of about a hundred local miners looking for gold dust in an illegal site, located in the earth of the village. He noted that environmental degradation and unhealthy practices that characterised illegal mining activities would be curtailed if artisanal miners are properly registered into groups within their localities. He urged states and local government authorities to champion the registration process for local miners, adding that it is only through this approach that their operations could be monitored, guided and supported for optimal contribution to the economy and for a safer mining environment. “It will also help them to work and earn money legitimately so that mining can become job creating and revenue earning work.”, he added. The Minister explained that many of the artisanal miners were ignorant people, who were out to eke a living, and in the process got involved, unconsciously, in some other nefarious activities. The Minister noted that illegal mining activities remained a major threat to big miners. He said in organising and formalising activities of artisanal miners, the country would also be protecting the big miners and assuring them that Nigeria is a safe mining destination. Fayemi said: “If the states and local government authorities can assist in registering them into groups, it will be easy for the federal mining offices in the states to relate with them, provide them with logistics and professional supports and give them licenses that will enable them operate legitimately. “The Ministry officials will organise them into cooperatives, tutor them on safer mining processes, introduce them to equipment leasing, coordinate them to benefit from our financial support and then they can operate in a more professional manner, which will also translate into better sources of income for them and increased revenue for government. “This is better than a situation where they continue to operate illegally, without any knowledge of the industry and the inherent health hazard to themselves and the immediate community”. On the health challenges to the miners and the community, the Minister said many of the local miners, in their desperate bid to separate the gold (or other minerals) from dust, apply some lethal substances including mercury and cyanide, which are poisonous and constitute health risk to the immediate environment. Addressing some local miners in the village, the Minister assured them of the ministry’s cooperation if they would abide by laid down procedures. Specifically, he said governments plans to encourage the setting up of minerals buying centres across the country to ensure that minerals are properly priced and sold in a structured market setting as opposed to underground sales that had robbed both the local miners and the country of the expected financial gains. “I will urge you to cooperate with government. Whenever the minerals buying centres are set up in your locality, patronise it. It is not good for us to take gold out of Nigeria and get it registered as gold from Niger, Togo or Ghana. You will even get a better patronage when you take your minerals to the buying centres. He also urged them to be prepared to take advantage of the equipment leasing scheme when it takes off. This, he said would help them make use of modern equipment that will improve their productivity and profitability as against crude implements they currently use. The Chairman of Paikoro Local Government council, Mr John Ibrahim, who conducted the minister round the site, said the council will cooperate with the Federal Mining office in the state to ensure better and safer mining environment. Some of the artisanal miners also said they were prepared to organise into groups and obtain mining licences. They, however want government to reduce the licence fee as part of incentives for them. Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari has expressed Nigeria’s interest in strengthening trade relations with Iran especially in the mining sector. The Minister said this when he received in audience the Iranian Ambassador, His Excellency Morteza Rahimi Zarchi who paid a courtesy visit to the Ministry. While expressing appreciation for the visit, the Minister recalled that President Buhari was in Iran recently to reinforce the trade relations between the two countries. He said that the two countries share a lot in common as members of the Oganisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, in diversification of their economies due to the global fall in oil prices as well as in mining. He added that Iran, in terms of mining technology can impart Nigeria positively, while noting that Iran is advanced in coal to power and mining exploration which Nigeria can benefit from. Ambassador Zarchi stressed that Nigeria and Iran are both exploring other sources of revenue by diversifying the economy in mining and agriculture and the Iranian investors are interested in partnering with Nigeria in the mining sector. He however revealed that in furtherance to the trade cooperation, he had visited Niger State which he confessed is blessed with mineral resources, saying that there is need to involve the private sector in the expansion of the economic cooperation of the two countries.