By Angela Atabo
Global Rights Lead Researcher, Nana Nwachukwu, said this when she presented the research report on the Dialogue on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) tagged “ Assessing the State of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Nigeria in Abuja on Tuesday.
Nwachukwu said that the report also blamed the Federal Government’s inability to regulate the industry and the difficulty faced by miners in accessing funds from Bank of Industry (BoI) as other factors promoting illegal mining.
“One of the biggest things that came up from this research was the policy framework for artisanal and small scale mining, the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act of 2007 is undergoing review, so this is an important time to look at some of these issues.
“This is because one of the things that came up in our findings is the use of artisanal miners by the larger companies to fill up their mining pot.
“This means that we have people who do the hard work using crude tools, damaging our soil and environment then hand off to middlemen who pay them little or nothing of what they have mined.
“These middlemen gather other similar miners like them, gather the mining output and pass them off to larger companies.
“So it has been like some form of cartel structure for mining and one of the biggest concerns is how do we regulate this type of mining?should we be looking at the big mining companies to ensure that the mining they have are on payroll?
Nwachukwu said that there was need to lower the entry requirement into the mining sector to enable small scale miners join.
“This scale miners will group themselves together for their own direct benefit and not for the benefit of bigger companies.
“This is because most of them are usually not able to fulfil the financial and other technical requirements in the sector in spite of their zeal to be there, so this leads to illegal mining,” she said.
According her, another issue is that mining is a sector dominated by men so there is very little space for women to play, because there are high entry barriers that prevent women and one of these is access to finance.
She said that it was important to explore the possibility of increasing access to finance for women in mining sector saying it was an important issue that should be worked on.
She said that it was also important to start looking at other ways of improving sustainable mining for communities because some of them do not have good roads.
“Their sources of water is usually polluted, the mining waste disposal is a big problem for these mining communities so these are the issues of concern, ” she said.
Speaking, the Executive Director, Global Rights, Mr Abiodun Baiyewu, said that the report was of cardinal importance to the mining sector in Nigeria.
Baiyewu said that in spite of this, the law and regulation guiding the sector constituted less than 10 per cent in terms of the scope of artisanal mining across the country.
“A lot of artisanal mining in the country is not regulated and this has consequences for the environment, for the country’s economy and for the mining host communities that are involved in this.
“So we sought to study the laws and the policies related to mining ,the institutions and the connectedness with the issues of artisanal mining ,the communities that mine artistically and to also to check what the leakages in the system and the policy were.
“We found, one that there are very poor laws with regards to artisanal mining and environment protection, and so a lot of the damage from across the country from artisinal mining are not prevented even before they happen.
“Remediation alone will not cure the problem of the sector , it is easier and cheaper to prevent than to remediate and remediation alone is costing us a lot as a country.
“Secondly, we discovered that the failure of government to prevent illegal miners from entering the country is also adding to the problem and this is responsible for the conflicts in various states of the country for example the North West,” she said.
She said that Nigeria has been losing more than 9billion dollars to unregulated mining process every year and recommended a reform in the laws governing mining.
She said that the protection of mining host communities was also key because Nigeria’s climate was also vulnerable adding that the law also needed to cover the environment and water resources which was of greater importance than the minerals being mined.
Baiyewu urged the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to support miners through loans and other physical aids because if artisanal miners have access to credit they would be able to expand the scope of their mining.
This, she said would bring them under stronger regulations so they would be able to afford equipment required for mining and do it in an environmental protective manner.
Also speaking, an official of Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Patrick Ojeka explained that the government was doing its best to implement the laws governing the sector.
He stated that while the government has mining officials across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, it was a herculean task to monitor illegal mining activities across the country.(NAN)