By Kasim Sumaina
The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has embarked on the development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) clusters for selected minerals in the six geo-political zones of the country.
The move, it said, is for effective harmonisation of their exploitation to derive the right revenue for government.
The Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, disclosed this during the handing and taking over ceremony of the landed property donated by the Cross River State Government for the establishment of Artisanal and Small-Scale processing clusters for the South-south zone in Calabar on Monday.
Ogah, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday by the Director of Press of the ministry, Mrs Etore Thomas, revealed that the development of the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mineral Processing Plant cluster project is an initiative of the federal government in swift response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world.
He added that in order to curtail the devastating effect of the pandemic on the means of livelihood of Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the implementation of the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan, which entails the development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mineral Processing clusters for the development and harnessing of revenue from the mineral sector.
Speaking further, Ogah stated that the ministry is focusing on artisanal and small-scale mining activities as it constitutes over 90% of the mining industry in Nigeria, adding that: “The development of the clusters would seek to agglomerate artisanal and small-scale miners.
“Customers and other stakeholders, based on geographical proximity will promote efficiency, increased specialization in minerals’ exploitation and marketing to generate desired revenue, job and wealth creation.”
He disclosed that the federal government’s choice of Cross River State for the siting of the cluster for Barite value chain development was based on the fact that the state is endowed with large commercial deposits of the minerals, adding that the criterion for selection was based on availability of raw materials.
He however thanked the state government for its speedy response to the ministry’s request for providing and handing over the title deeds of the land.
In his remarks, the Governor of Cross River State, Benedict Ayade, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, disclosed that the state readily approved the five hectares requested by the ministry for the cluster project as it would be a major centre of activity for barite artisanal and small-scale miners in the South-south zone.
He stated that the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of the land for the project would be ready for collection very soon.
Prof. Esu commended the ministers for their fairness and magnanimity for choosing Cross River State as home for the barite cluster project and enjoined the ministry to ensure the immediate take-off of the project.