The Federal Government, on Monday, said that with the renewed interest in mining brought about by the current administration’s diversification efforts, at least two million people in Nigeria are now directly or indirectly dependent on Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) for their livelihoods.
Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bwari, who disclosed this during the First National Stakeholders’ Discourse on the opportunities and challenges of artisanal mining in Nigeria, in Abuja, said the country still suffers from finding lasting solutions to the thorny issue of integrating artisanal miners into the mainstream of formal mining in Nigeria.
Bwari intensified the commitment of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to increase the contribution of the mining sector to the nation’s GDP, noting that it could only be achieved if mining practices were regulated and miners could benefit from extension services on safer mining methods, soft loans, and modern technology.
According to him, “Most of them are poor and unemployed, living in rural areas and employing crude methods and household implements to exploit these minerals which they sell to feed their families.
“Yet at this stage in our development, these are the people responsible for 90 per cent of the country’s mineral production.
“They are mostly to be found mining precious minerals like gold, silver, cassiterite, coltan, lead/zinc, sapphire, emerald, tourmaline, aquamarine, gypsum, barytes, silica sand, granite, sandstones, clay, salt, etc.”
The minister, however, called on industry stakeholders to brainstorm about actionable strategies towards the formulation of sound policies that would check the negative effects of ASM activities whilst exploiting its positive aspects to improve the livelihoods of miners, their communities and the nation’s GDP.
In his remark, Permanent Secretary, Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Mu’Azu, said more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s mineral production comes from artisanal miners who use inappropriate methods and very rudimentary tools to exploit mineral deposits.
Mu’Azu’s words, “In this method, very little attention is paid to the environment; miners prefer, instead to grab as much as they could, while the environment is degraded; and the host communities are left to bear the negative consequences.
“In fact, the near absence of industrial mining in Nigeria coupled with the inefficiency of the ASM could explain the mining sector’s less than 1 per cent contribution to the nation’s GDP. So ASM possesses huge talent economic potentials,” he added.