Mining Lease Crisis: FG Faults BUA Cement’s Publication
By Dipo Olowookere
The recent publication of the BUA Group cement concerning ownership of a mining pit has been described by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development as “unwarranted campaign of calumny against it and the office of the Minister.”
A statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja quoted Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr Mohammed Abass, as saying that BUA Group was aiming to blackmail the ministry into granting a free pass for illegal operations.
He alleged that a top official of the Group signed a publication that was published in several newspapers as an open letter to the President.
He said the title of the publication was “A cry for help: Wanton Abuse of Power By a Serving Minister Geared at Sabotaging Operations of BUA Cement”.
Mr Abass said while the ministry did not intend to join issues with the company which had an enviable history of industrial performance, the ministry deemed it appropriate to enlighten members of the public on the company.
He explained that in the records of the ministry and the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office (MCO), BUA Group did not have a mining lease over the contentious site No. 2541ML; therefore, its mining activities there were illegal.
He said the ministry stood by the Stop Work Order and a letter issued to the BUA Group, signed by the Permanent Secretary, dated October 17 after thorough investigation.
He said the investigation confirmed that the company was indeed engaging in illegal mining of marble/limestone at a mine pit located on some Geographical Coordinates.
”The Run-of-Mine (ROM) was stockpiled at an area with geographical coordinates N070 21’ 48.4”; E0060 26’37.2”.
He said clarification provided by the mining cadastre office showed that the coordinates of the Mine pit and ROM stockpile area fell within the area of mining Lease No 2541ML belonging to Messrs Dangote Industries Limited.
He added that the ministry had, earlier in 2015, issued a Stop Work Order on the same disputed site but the BUA Group disregarded the order and went ahead with its illegal mining activities, under heavy cover of armed soldiers, policemen and men of the civil defence corps.
He said the management of BUA also resisted the enforcement of the latest Stop Work Order issued on October 17, using a combination of armed militia, soldiers and police officers to obstruct the team from the ministry in effecting the order.
According to him, while the group in its publication admitted that a suit over the ownership of the site was pending in a court of competent jurisdiction, the company continued with its illegal mining activities on the site.
“This, itself is subjudice to both the court and the Mining Act 2007, which guides mining activities in the country,” he said.
He said while the ministry restated its commitment to promoting local and global investments in the Nigerian mining sector, it would always maintain that due process should be followed, as stipulated in the Minerals and Mining Act 2007.