The federal government has revoked a total of 1,633 mineral titles after the affected mining companies failed to pay the stipulated administrative fees.
The minister of solid minerals development, Dr Dele Alake, who disclosed this during a press briefing yesterday at the ministry’s conference room in Abuja, said that the ministry will immediately dispatch its mining inspectorate department and security agencies to enforce the revocation order to make sure the affected firms do not go back to the mining sites.
He described the service fees in question as peanuts compared to the profit margins of the companies and said their refusal to pay the annual charges was a sign of bad faith. The minister also revealed that the mineral title fees will be reviewed upwards in view of the significant technological and infrastructural investments the government had made in the sector.
In the statement he personally signed, Dr Alake explained said the Mining Cadastral Office is the agency of the ministry in charge of mineral title administration and that the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 authorizes it to collect two kinds of fees: a fee for processing of applications for mineral titles, and an annual service fee established at a fixed rate per square cadastral unit for administrative and management services rendered by the Cadastre.
Alake lamented that the defaulting firms refused to pay such basic administrative fees despite the MCO following its protocols of calling their attention to this breach. He said: “It is indeed very unconscionable for corporate bodies making huge profits from mining to refuse to give the government its due by failing to pay their annual service fee. It is indeed a reasonable conjecture that such a company will even be more unwilling to pay royalties and honour its tax obligations to the government.
“The amount the companies are being asked to pay is peanut compared to their own revenue projections. For example, the holder of an exploration title pays only N1,500 per cadastral unit not exceeding 200 units. Those holding titles covering more than 200 units pay N2,000 per unit, In short, the larger the area your title covers, the more you pay. This principle was applied to ensure that applicants don’t hold more than they require to explore. With a cadastral unit captured as a square of 500 metres by 500 metres, any law-abiding title holder should not hesitate to perform its obligations.”
The minister further noted that the ministry followed the stipulated legal guidelines in the mining law in revoking the 1633 licences. According to him, sections 11 and 12 of the NMM Act 2007 state that a mineral title shall become liable to revocation where the holder fails to pay the prescribed fees and the annual service fee due to the Mining Cadastre Office.
“In these cases, the Mining Cadastre Office shall give a thirty days written default notice to the defaulting party and, if payment is not effected during that period, the Mining Cadastre Office shall record the default and revoke the mineral title.” The minister said all the prescribed notice channels to reach out to the affected firms were adhered to before the government revoked their licences.
“In compliance with the law, the MCO on October 4, 2023 began the process of revoking 2,213 titles. These included 795 Exploration titles, 956 Small Scale Mining Licences, 364 Quarry licences and 98 Mining Leases. These were published in the Federal Government Gazette Number 178, Volume 110 of October 10, 2023 with the notice of revocation for defaulting in the payment of Annual Service Fee.
“The mandatory 30 days expired on November 10, 2023. Only 580 title holders responded by settling their indebtedness. With this development, the MCO recommended the revocation of 1, 633 mineral titles as follows: Exploration Licence, 536; Quarry Licence, 279; Small Scale Mining Licence, 787 and Mining Lease, 31.
“In line with the powers conferred on me by the NMMA 2007, Section 5 (a), I have approved the revocation of the 1,633 titles. I hereby warn the previous holders of these titles to leave the relevant cadaster with immediate effect as security agencies shall work with the Mines Inspectorate of the Ministry to apprehend any defaulter found in any of the areas where titles have been revoked,” Alake stated.
According to him, the revocation exercise is an ongoing activity and soon other sets of defaulters will come under similar punishment, as, according to him, the government is serious about turning the mining sector into a major revenue base for the country. He also sounded a final note of warning to illegal miners and said the Tinubu administration will stop at nothing until it has sanitized the sector and taken it back from economic saboteurs.