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The federal government has unfolded plans to ensure that the country maximise potentials in the gemstone sector to contribute to the GDP and create jobs and wealth for the citizens, even as it said that efforts are being made to ensure that gemstone export proceeds are duly repatriated.

Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who disclose this at the opening session of the 2017 edition of the African Gems and Jewellery Exhibition and Seminar in Abuja, said part of the steps being taken was to ensure that due repatriation of gemstone export proceeds through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Fayemi said government would discourage personal exports of minerals which have hitherto abetted smuggling and other sharp practices.

He lamented that the gemstone business had been a vehicle for money laundering by some individuals at the detriment of the country’s economic growth, adding that the dollar value of the country’s gems exported is well over $3 billion dollar annually.

He however, said that the sector is going through a reorganisation process with some reforms being put in place, which among other things would ensure accurate records and sources of gemstones; to ensure all gemstone mining is carried out in a sustainable manner with limited impact on environment.

“The goal of our reforms in this segment of the mining industry has been to ensure proper organisation of the gemstone sector from prospecting to exploration, to mining, processing and marketing of gemstones in Nigeria, with emphasis on regularising the activities of the artisans who mostly engage in it.”

Speaking further, he lauded the vision of the conveners of the gemstone exhibition and seminar and all collaborating associations, and also urged the Nigerian youths desiring to invest in mining to consider the gemstone sector.

According to him, “I am frequently approached by many young Nigerians who want to know of opportunities in the industry. I unreservedly commend the Gems and Jewellery segment of our industry to such budding entrepreneurs to explore – you wouldn’t find a more extensive value chain with relatively lower risk profile and entry points.

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In yesteryears, the Mining sector was seen as the exclusive preserve of expatriate illegal miners, or “old school” players. Today, we are pleased that our reform efforts have brought about stronger participation and shared responsibility across board – especially with the more youthful demographic.

“Many young people have worked with us on our journey to build a more vibrant mining sector, serving on statutory committees and in advisory roles. Their energy, optimism and vision has blended well with the wisdom, experience and carefulness of our older veterans and produced the results we are now seeing in the industry. It is now clear that the new face of Mining in Nigeria is the Young Men and Women taking positions in various segments of the industry.

“This is especially so in the Gems and Jewellery segment of the sector. The sector has become increasingly attractive and appealing to the younger generation on account of efforts carried out to simplify the business of mining in Nigeria. No longer is any segment of the population shut out from Mining – the Nigerian Mining Sector now has a new buzz and increased activity from players without and outside the country.

“The Roadmap identified Gemstones amongst the nation’s diverse mineral resources as high value commodities that have the potential of significantly contributing to our priority goals of Economic Diversification, Wealth Creation and Jobs Creation.

The Minister hinted that: “Mines Security is an important consideration for players in the upstream segment of the gems and jewellery sector. The institutional capacities of the ministry and its agencies have been strengthened to effectively regulate the sector, with a particular focus on mines safety and security.

“A new partnership has been forged with the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Police Force to establish the Mining Police as provisioned in the law. This has led to a number of high profile arrests of expatriate illegal miners and their Nigerian conspirators.” He added.

Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, in her keynote address at the event also made a case for greater investment in the Nigerian mining sector and grow it to full capacity.

Mrs Osinbajo said the focus should be on how to make the idea of mines to market a win-win for all parties concerned.

“The outcome will produce tangible result and impact positively on the populace” she added.

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