Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Olamilenka Adegbite, has expressed displeasure about the non-integration of artisanal small-scale miners into the national poverty alleviation and rural development strategy.
According to him, even though the Act clearly assigns full responsibility of sector’s development to his ministry, progressive development of the industry requires the involvement and synergy of a broad range of public, private and non-governmental stakeholders.
The minister disclosed this recently in Abuja, in a keynote address he delivered at first public stakeholder consultative meeting with artisanal miners.
He said formalisation was the only tried and tested pathway across the globe to retain economic and social benefits as well as manage negative environmental, social, health and safety impact of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) activities. He lamented that so far, its the negative impact of ASM activities and not its social-economic importance that had been more visible in Nigeria, noting that, “for instance, we have seen how armed gangs have exploited the ASM operators and exacerbated the security situation in Zamfara state.
“We continue to experience high levels of smuggling of minerals, particularly gold, gemstones and tin. It has led to severe health challenges and deaths recorded in Niger and Zamfara state from exposure to poisonous lead during gold processing, destroyed the environment through high use of mercury in gold bearing communities,” he said.
Adegbite, stated that although the country’s legal, regulatory and institutional framework for ASM was aligned with global best practice, it has had limited success with its implementation.
He noted that there are several reasons for this but, “mostly, we have been constrained by weak Institutional capacity and limited financial resources. Further, the ASM sector has not been properly integrated into the national poverty alleviation and rural development strategy.”
The minister while expressing optimism about the sector’s contribution to the economy, said, “to realise these benefits and manage the negative impact, we have adopted a progressive approach through building an enabling environment for the ASM sector.”
According to him, we will achieve this by strengthening our existing ASM formalisation process, incentivising miners and traders to participate in the formal economy and improving our effectiveness in monitoring the ASM sector. Through formalisation, we aim to bridge the gap between the ASM mineral trade and gangs as well as illicit trade.
Continuing, he disclosed that to improve regulatory enforcement effectiveness and efficiency, “we have established a remote sensing unit within the ministry with all required hardware and software. Through the unit, we now have the capacity for long term monitoring of ASM and other mining operation to support decision making.
“We will process satellite imagery and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data on ASM sites in the unit. Clearly, the ASM sector can no longer be ignored and is here to stay. To ignore the ASM sector is perilous,” he said.