Saturday, 2nd December 2023

How artisanal miners pioneer industry growth, generate resources for national development

By Abel Abogonye, Lafia
23 September 2023   |   2:11 am
Nigeria is a nation blessed with a wealth of mineral resources and stands at the threshold of a transformative era in its mining industry. With an abundant endowment of minerals ranging from precious metals to industrial minerals...


Nigeria is a nation blessed with a wealth of mineral resources and stands at the threshold of a transformative era in its mining industry. With an abundant endowment of minerals ranging from precious metals to industrial minerals, Nigeria has the potential to become a global leader in responsible and sustainable resource extraction.

Artisanal miners, though down the ladder in the mining sector organogram, play a crucial role in the actualisation of Nigeria’s ultimate goal of diversifying its economy and boosting income generation through the mining sector.

Artisanal miners are the first explorers of mineral resources, knowing exactly where the mineral resources are located and how or when to extract them. Even though some are tagged ‘illegal miners’, their roles in the sector cannot be ignored or overlooked. They do not only have the numbers in millions, they also have the experience and field expertise.

No wonder the Federal Government recently rather than issue a benchmark arrest for some of the artisanal miners it brands ‘illegal miners’ for not joining any miners’ cooperative, gave them a 30-day window to do so.

Chasing away artisanal miners from mining sites across the country would be a disaster for Nigeria as both the government and big foreign and local mining companies, though financially capable, do not have adequate manpower to mine the numerous mining sites in the country if it wants to achieve its goal of diversifying from crude oil.

That is the reason the federal and state governments, mining companies, critical stakeholders in the sector and artisanal miners must work together to achieve the set goals of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration in the sector.

A key player in the artisanal miners’ cadre that has contributed immensely to the sector and welfare of its members, and will play a key role in harnessing abundant mineral resources for sustainable growth in Nigeria mining sector is the National Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Cooperative Society. The society, with numerous members and offices in some parts of the country, is in the forefront of artisanal mining in Nigeria. Just recently, it announced an ambitious new initiative aimed at transforming the artisanal and small-scale mining sector, driving sustainable growth and fostering responsible mining practices.

In a landmark move, the society under the visionary leadership of Alhaji Abdulahi Dantasidi is launching a comprehensive programme designed to address the pressing challenges facing the artisanal and small-scale mining community.

With a steadfast commitment to environmental stewardship, community development and economic empowerment, this initiative represents a watershed moment in the evolution of the mining industry.

In an interview with The Guardian, Dantasidi stated that the key components of the groundbreaking initiative include technological advancement and innovation, whereby the society would be dedicated to harnessing cutting-edge technologies to enhance efficiency, safety and environmental sustainability in the mining process.
He said: “By investing in state-of-the-art equipment such as mercury-free mineral processing equipment, RD5 impact crusher and also promoting the adoption of responsible mining practices, we aim to raise the industry’s global standards.

“Also, the future of mining in Nigeria is inseparable from the technological innovations that are reshaping the industry worldwide. The advent of Industry 4.0 technologies, including automation, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), is revolutionising how minerals are extracted, processed and transported.

“Automated drilling rigs, autonomous haulage systems and advanced data analytics are enhancing operational efficiency, safety and environmental sustainability.

“Furthermore, the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms is optimising resource estimation, enabling more accurate and cost-effective exploration efforts.”

Dantasidi added that “Predictive modeling and geological analysis, powered by AI, are streamlining the identification of viable deposits, reducing the environmental footprint associated with exploratory activities.”

According to him, part of the initiative also is capacity building and training, whereby the society would establish training centres across strategic regions, which would offer specialised training programmes in modern mining techniques, safety protocols and environmental conservation practices, equipping miners with the tools they need to thrive in the industry.

He also pointed out that the leadership of the society is embarking on an ambitious and captivating project to establish National Mineral Resource Museums in Nasarawa, Lagos and Kano states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“The aim is set to open doors to the public, inviting visitors on a journey through the extraordinary world of minerals and the rich history that surrounds them.

“This National Mineral Resource Museums will also serve as an avenue in providing engaging educational opportunities for visitors of all ages. Interactive displays, hands-on activities and informative guided tours will allow guests to delve into the fascinating science behind minerals, igniting a passion for geology and environmental stewardship”, he added.

The society under the leadership of Dantasidi also has plans for environmental conservation and rehabilitation whereby it is committed to minimising the environmental footprint of mining activities.

“Through rigorous monitoring, land reclamation projects and the promotion of sustainable mining practices, we will work tirelessly to protect and restore the natural ecosystems affected by mining operations,” he said.
A key aspect of the initiative is fostering ethical trade practices in which the cooperative society is currently working on, setting up a cutting-edge Mineral Resource Buying and Selling Centre, poised to revolutionise the mineral trading landscape in Nigeria.

“This state-of-the-art facility is set to become the epicentre of ethical and sustainable mineral commerce, providing a fair and transparent platform for artisanal miners and buyers alike.

“The centre will also serve as a hub for knowledge-sharing, capacity-building and skills development for artisanal miners. Through training programmes, workshops and access to modern mining technologies, we aim to enhance the capabilities of miners, enabling them to maximise their productivity while maintaining high standards of safety and sustainability,” Dantasidi explained.

There is no doubt that this initiative marks a pivotal moment in the history of artisanal and small-scale mining. It also exposes the impact of artisanal miners to the growth of the mining sector if well organised.

Through collective effort and innovative thinking, critical stakeholders including artisanal miners have the power to revolutionise the industry and create a legacy of responsible mining for generations to come.

Rather than engage in a cat and mouse fight over who has rights to mining sites or who is legal or not legal, the federal and state governments, artisanal miners and other critical stakeholders in the sector must join hands by working together to forge a brighter, more sustainable future for the artisanal and small-scale mining sector, which plays a pivotal role in the mining of solid minerals in the country.

This forward-thinking approach will not only ensure economic prosperity but will equally preserve the nation’s natural heritage for future generations. With innovation, collaboration and a commitment to excellence, Nigeria is set to lead the way in the global mining industry.