The Department of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, has said that over 500,000 Nigerians were directly involved in Small Scale Mining operations across the country.
Mr Patrick Ojeka, Director of the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining of the ministrt, disclosed this on Monday in Calabar at a five-day training for 150 registered and performing mining cooperatives and quarry associations in the South South and South East regions.
Ojeka said that the number was on the increase in view of the federal government strategy in harnessing the potential of mining to address poverty in rural mining communities.
Ojeka, who was represented by Mr Etido Umoakpan, the Extension Service Team Lead of the training, said that Artisanal and Small Scale Mining activities could result in negative environmental impacts and other vices within the area of operation.
He maintained that inspite of the inherent challenges, Artisanal and Small Scale Mining is a livelihood strategy adopted primarily to alleviate poverty in rural areas in most countries.
According to him, it is in recognition of the importance of mining cooperatives that the ministry adopted a strategy termed `formalisation’, through `corporatisation’ to address the artisanal mining issue, while using it as an instrument to alleviate poverty.
“The miners will be trained on introduction of health and safety procedures in the mines and provision of water and health facilities to large mining camps.
“Other areas are, assist small scale miners on mine design and planning suitable for the deposit, provide mineral testing standard and determination of mineral grades among others,’’ he said.
Speaking, Cross River Commissioner for Solid Minerals, Mr George O’Ben-Etchi, said that the artisanal and small scale miners are focal to the development of the mining sector in the two regions.
He said the regions, like many others in the country are richly blessed with numerous mineral reserves, a virtually untapped rich geological potential capable of supporting a healthy mining sector for generations to come.
“This means job opportunities, wealth creation and a number of other advantages for us and the government that is working very hard to develop and reposition the mining sector,’’ he said.
The Federal Mines Officer in Cross River, Mr Mayowa Omosebi, said the federal government had marked the mining sector as very critical in moving the country’s economy forward.
Omosebi, who was represented by Mr Emmanuel Bassey, an official in the ministry, said the workshop was timely in view of the priority and concern for the mining sector.
One of the participants, Mr Obi Okon, from Cross River, lauded the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development for the training, adding that it would enhance their operational activities.