Salihu Adamu and his son, Jafar, eke a living from mining solid minerals in Kokona community in Nasarawa State without licence from government.
After hours of digging deep into the soil, they sieve precious stones and other minerals from the soil, wash them and look for buyers. This way, Salihu and other artisanal miners get money to fend for their families.
The activities of these artisanal miners made the Federal Government in its drive for diversification in the solid minerals sector to formalise their operations.
At the first public stakeholders meeting for the formalisation of artisanal mining and ASM Remote Sensing Monitoring System in Abuja recently, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arch. Olamilekan Adegbite, said formalisation was the only tried and tested pathway across the globe to retain the economic and social benefit of Artisanal and Small scale Miners (ASM).
Arch. Adegbite said, “Formalisation is not a one-off event. We are focusing on enabling ASM operators to progressively comply with technical, environment, economic, tax, social and labour requirements.”
He further said, “Strengthening our process for providing extension services to the ASM cooperatives is high priority for us. We are not criminalising artisanal miners; rather, we want to recognise them and want them to acknowledge regulations.”
The minister added that government was concerned about the safety of the miners and wanted to help them to have a productive venture.
He explained that, “It is good we organise them; teach them super methods on how to operate. When we do this, the country benefits. We don’t want people dying, but beyond that, we can extend facilities to them, like equipment and funding which government has provided. What government gains is that when these people are brought in, their productivity is enhanced, and whatever they make, they can pay their royalty to government.”
The Project Consultant of ASM Remote Sensing Monitoring System, Dr. Andreas Berth of SOFRECO, said more than 200,000 mining sites had been captured, and added that only a formalised miner was attractive to investors.
The President of Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN), Alhaji Sani Kankara, said they were ready to collaborate with the Federal Government in the formalisation of artisanal and small scale miners to enable them have a robust database.
Sharing the sectors experience, a private investor and MD of Kian Smith, Mrs. Nere Teriba, said government should give financial incentives to small scale miners and also teach them not to violate other people’s rights in carrying out their activities.
Mr. Patrick Odiegwu who owns Barite, Lead and Zinc Company, operating in Benue State, said the government’s initiative of formalising the small and artisanal miners was laudable on paper but must become practicable.
Mr. Odiegwu said, “We have issues of unemployment, lack of capacity for some of these small scale miners, so English speaking cannot deliver this. We need to go to the field. We need to have practical expression of what government is saying. Mining is bringing out materials that the industry is going to use to produce consumable goods.
“On paper, it’s fantastic, but I want to see it practically expressed. We should take our minerals, process them and add value to them. The government should get the banks involved in this. You cannot do mining without money.”
Another miner, Aminu Abdallah, said the initiative of formalising the small scale and artisanal miners was an effort that had been ongoing.
However, Abdala said, “Government is taking advantage of the technology of remote sensing. Remote sensing has the ability to cover areas that are not easily accessible through conventional methods due to lack of infrastructure. This is to ensure that artisanal miners are put in groups to ensure that they get better incentives from government.”
The Chairman of Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee in Edo State, Mr. Daniel Inneh, said the formalisation of ASM was the wisest step that had been taken by the Federal Government in developing the solid minerals sector.
Mr. Inneh said, “What is being done now is to register people, give them adequate supervision and ensure that their activities are known to government and appropriate authorities and taxes that are to go to government are collected.”
The Director of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining in the Ministry of Mines and Steel, Mr. Patrick Ojeka, said 1,400 cooperatives had been formed for artisanal and small scale miners across the country.
Mr. Ojeka said, “What we are doing is a process; starting with this sensitisation. We have substantially gotten them to understand that coming together will improve their productivity.
“As we speak, we have registered 1,400 cooperatives across the country. A minimum of 10 persons form a cooperative. They choose their names, form their structures, then they apply to be registered with the ministry, and with the payment of a token of N5,000, they are registered.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Sen. Tanko Al-Makura, said the National Assembly was concerned, on how to unbundle the solid minerals sector.
Sen. Al-Makura said, “Presently, the government’s policy is moving towards diversification. The essence of this gathering is to see how we can get stakeholders to participate in the diversification process. Some of the people here are job providers; they are creating jobs through the little small scale mining they are doing. So, if they are properly guided and given proper support that will make their work seamless, and the goal of diversification of our economy through the solid minerals sector will be achieved.”