blood and treasure: breaking the bonds between small-scale mining and terrorism - mine | issue 105 | june 2021
ining remains one of the most lucrative industries in the world, and demand shows no sign of falling for every type of mineral under the sun, from coal and iron, the cornerstones of industry, to rare earths and speciality minerals needed in high-tech equipment.
A range of reports from inter-governmental bodies and independent thinktanks have pointed to a growing connection between artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and terrorist activities in West and Central Africa.
From Nigeria to Niger, and Mali to Burkina Faso, small-scale miners face a profound challenge: they need buyers for their products in order to make ends meet but are shut out of the legal mineral trade by governments that refuse to acknowledge their work.
Terrorist groups, meanwhile, require a source of funding for their operations, and so are eager to prey on such miners, who are desperate for any trading partners, entrenching economic ties between small-scale miners and terrorist organisations.
Considering this complexity, a number of international organisations have taken it upon themselves to offer solutions to the countries affected by mining-funded terrorism, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) among them.
The OECD has published a range of materials containing advice on how best to clean up the mineral supply chain, from working to formalise artisanal mining to offering guidelines for those at the end of the supply chain. However, a key question remains: can such a macro-level approach effectively tackle such a local challenge?
It's been well-documented, and we have also uncovered this in our own investigations, that terrorist groups, in particular in West Africa, are increasingly interested in controlling areas of production of gold, explains Louis Marchal, minerals and extractives sector lead at the Centre for Responsible Business Conduct at the OECD.
In recent years, a number of investigations have highlighted the relationships that Marchal refers to. Last year, for instance, HumAngle reported that in Nigerias Zamfara region, local gold miners responded to a state ban on gold mining by selling their products directly to terror groups, and in return would be left alone by the latters armed groups.
When you talk about terrorist groups in West and Central Africa, it's also important to keep in mind that these are often 'opportunistic terrorists', criminal groups that tend to organise terrorist actions when it's timely and when it suits them, says Marchal, highlighting the opportunistic nature of terrorist activities exemplified by their activities in Zamfara.
My point here is to underline that criminal organisations have been targeting the production and trade of minerals, in particular gold, for a while, so it's quite natural that terrorist groups are also interested in that.
The opportunistic nature of these activities ties strongly to the fact that gold is often the favoured mineral of the terrorist groups involved. Marchal noted that the primary motivation of many of these groups is to secure a source of funding for future operations.
To that end, gold is an ideal commodity: a bar weighing one kilogram is worth around $51,625 and is easy to smuggle across borders, Furthermore, its value is immediately apparent to those interested in trading, unlike, say, diamonds, where the cut and quality of the stone can cause its final price to fluctuate.
Recent discoveries of gold deposits in West and Central Africa have only intensified the issue of terrorism. A report from Crisis Group found that in the Sahel, a region of desert that stretches across Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, the discovery of a new gold vein in 2012 caused the countries gold production to soar to new heights.
The widespread and often entrenched nature of these relationships can make breaking these bonds difficult. Considering Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger again, unregulated gold mining accounts for up to $4.5bn of value per year across the three countries, and more than two million people are directly employed in ASM activities.
The combination of intense terrorist interest in gold, and the widespread nature of ASM gold mining in West and Central Africa, has created the perfect conditions for links between terror groups and unregulated mining to flourish. Challenging these relationships will be as much about changing these conditions as tackling individual terror groups or mines.
Legalising ASM certainly offers benefits on paper, including the protection of mines by government forces, and allowing small-scale miners to access a much wider range of customers, all of which is done above board.
However, the struggle for recognition and formalisation has dragged on for decades in much of the world, with the cost of securing mining licences and the need for effective safety and environmental policies making formalisation a costly and logistically impossible proposition for many small-scale miners.
Some of Africas largest mining jurisdictions, such as South Africa, have set up task forces and bodies to help those involved in ASM transition to legal mining. These have met with limited success however, and often run into the problem that underlines many of these challenges: the close bonds between ASM and terrorism.
The other [option] is to close the trading opportunities as much as possible for terrorist groups, continues Marchal, a solution driven by economics that could help eliminate the need for miners to sell products to terrorist groups, and cause these relationships to evaporate.
What that means is that the international buyers abroad should be conducting what we call due diligence to make sure that they're not sourcing from mines controlled by those terrorist groups, and challenging that is very difficult for a number of reasons.
As you can imagine, you will always find buyers that are interested in gold, either because they're buying it cheap or because they don't have to fill any kind of paperwork. One thing that's certain is that trying to ban artisanal mining doesn't work, has never worked, and will never work.
The OECDs position as an international organisation, and one separated from the specific legal and security situations in countries affected by terrorism and ASM, means it can afford to take a big picture view of the challenges.
We started working on gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten (3TG) in 2011 and it has now extended far beyond that, says Marchal. We have a very strong relationship with many international industry associations, for instance, with the London Bullion Market Association or the London Metal Exchange. An increasing number of jurisdictions have decided to turn our voluntary standard into legal obligations and/or industry requirements.
That was the case in the US about 10 years ago, and then the EU adopted a regulation that covers the import of 3TG. The UK, after Brexit, has decided to implement that regulation as well. Switzerland is also about to adopt it.
This framework includes initiatives to identify, assess, and minimise risks and effectively communicate on all stages of the assessment process, a move that is itself an innovation considering that many of the terrorist threats to ASM operations are under-reported in international media.
However, there are inherent limits to this influence. The OECDs position allows it to take a balanced, holistic view to dealing with this challenge, but its lack of direct influence over individual regions and countries means its role is confined to that of reporting and recommendation, rather than direct action.
Points where we have less leverage and influence are at the producing level, says Marchal. The OECD does not have any representation on the ground in producing countries, so it's harder for us to do work on the ground.
Yet this does not mean that the OECD is content to sit within its sphere of influence, with Marchal referring to a number of initiatives that could see the OECD expand its influence through direct collaboration.
We managed to [work with] local international agencies or donor agencies of our member states; we work a lot with the UN and regional organisations; we are increasingly working with other international initiatives such as the EITI [Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative], or the voluntary principles on security and human rights.
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women in small scale mining criticise akufo-addo over burning of mining equipment
President Akufo-Addo has said members of the anti-galamsey task force are right to burn equipment belonging to illegal miners while urging affected miners who disagree with government to proceed to court.
The President has opened the way for us. He is a lawyer and he knows that what he is saying is not right but he is asking the miners to go to court when he knows that it is not in the mining act. The work of Operation Halt should not affect us because we are not the people doing the wrong work, it is the illegal miners who are being supported by the politicians.
Despite the commendable effort of the military in the curbing of pollution of water bodies and forest reserves, their actions are rather creating more pollution in the rivers, the land and airspace. The destruction of these equipment on water bodies is worsening it by the spillage of oil, fuel, mercury into our water bodies. Most children in the communities take pleasure in swimming in these water bodies.
Sinking of these equipment poses a big danger and hazard to them. We Artisanal Women in Mining (ASWIM) and the Kolikoli women, as mothers are pleading with the Ghana Armed Forces that the better method is to bring them off to shore and drain them of their fluid to prevent further pollution, she explained.
Clad in red armed bands and head gear, the group which accused government of using the military to intimidate legal small scale miners, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minerals Commission who have the factual information on their activities, to intervene.
We women in artisanal mining and our Kolikoli women are pleading with the President the Minister, Samuel Abu Jinapor and all frontline officials to immediately allow the legal small scale miners to get back to our site so we can find our means of living, she appealed.
They say the clampdown has affected them financially, physically and emotionally and it is gradually increasing social vices in mining communities as members are now seeking other means to fend for themselves and their families.
9 problems of mining in nigeria and solutions information
Mining in Nigeria is the process by which solid minerals and other useful substances are extracted from the earth. The geological survey of Nigeria has indicated the presence of over 34 minerals that are currently being mined in more than 450 locations spread all over the country. The development of the mining subsector of the Nigerian economy will create more jobs for citizens of the country. Currently, individuals and companies currently engaged in mining activities in the country are facing various challenges and some of these are discussed here.
For mining companies and agencies to be able to effectively carry out their operations, certain basic amenities must be put in place by the government. Good road networks, constant power supply, and even water supply are important to mining activities hence the government must ensure these facilities are put in place for smooth running of mining operations.
The Nigerian mining sector is currently dominated by small-scale miners who lack sufficient funding to expand their business, the insufficient fund stands as one of the key problems of mining in Nigeria. Many of these miners rely on crude methods and equipment to carry out their operations and these methods would not yield much in terms of reward for them.
Well-equipped laboratories are necessary for more research to be carried out on these minerals. This is necessary especially in the exploration for new locations that contain minerals as well as the processing and beneficiation of these minerals after extraction to increase their grade.
Mining naturally is a risky venture but in Nigeria, the risk level is even much higher than in many other countries of the world where technological advancement and better methods have lowered the risk involved.
The mining industry in Nigeria is still not well regulated. This has made it really easy for illegal miners to operate. Ministry officials charged with overseeing this industry are underequipped for the job.
The productivity of our mines is still very low due to the use of old equipment and mining methods. Most of our mining operations are still being carried out by artisanal miners who cannot afford to purchase expensive modern equipment to carry out their work. They have to rely on the use of crude implements like digger and spade to dig the ground.
The government should ensure it provides basic amenities such as potable water, good roads, constant power supply all over the country. Availability of these facilities will boost mining activities in the country
Loan facilities are not easily obtained by mining companies and this has hindered the expansion of small-scale mining companies. Some of these companies have had to look outside of Nigeria for funds. Also, the approved mining license should be acceptable as collateral for obtaining a loan in Nigeria.
Current geological data should be updated to ensure they are more reliable. The Nigerian Geological Survey Agency is currently collaborating with Geological departments in our Higher Institutions to update our geological maps.
Establishment of standard and well-equipped laboratories either by the government or by individuals or companies with government support should be encouraged. Establishment of these laboratories will significantly boost our mining operations.
With proper funding, mining companies and individuals involved in mining will be able to procure modern equipment to enable them to carry out their operations smoothly. Also, health facilities should be put in place to cater to the medical needs of people directly involved in mining operations.
Majorly of these illegal miners have no other means of survival since they have been involved in mining for many years. The government should encourage these miners to set up proper mining operations in line with available legislation in the country. That way both the interests of the government and those of the illegal miners are protected.
The government should decide and make known its position on mining and ensure proper legislation to back this up is enacted. One such legislation recently passed is the mineral act which was signed into law in 2007. It is hoped that this law and similar laws would ensure transparency in the process of granting mining licenses, ensure the security of tenure, encourage competitive fiscal terms and lead to significant growth in our mining industry.
The productivity of our mining industry can be significantly increased if modern methods and equipment are used by miners in carrying out mining operations. Modern equipment like bulldozers and excavators will do a faster and neater job excavating the earth than a human with a spade and digger would.
Huge potential lies within the mining industry of Nigeria. With proper legislation and good infrastructure put in place by the government, more investors will come in to do business in our country. Also, a good collaboration must exist between the government, the host communities of our mines as well as both major and minor players within the industry for the smooth running of the industry. It is hoped that if all these are done, our sleeping mining industry in Nigeria can finally awaken with a loud roar.
promoting safe mining: government to supply mercury-free mining equipment to small-scale miners
As part of efforts to sanitize the small scale mining sector and protect the environment, particularly water bodies and forest reserves, the government is making available Mercury-free mining equipment to small-scale Miners.
developing artisanal small-scale mining in nigeria | dailytrust
Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) is an important part of the Nigerian mining sector which has the potential to raise internally generated revenue and enhance our foreign exchange earnings, create employment, reduce poverty and encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) if well managed. Stakeholders say ASM in Nigeria is undeveloped and has been long neglected due to over dependence on oil. Over 90 percent of mining activities in the country are within the cadre of ASM, out of which 75 percent is carried out illegally. The sector is unguided and unregulated, stressed, adding that policies now in place were inadequate and the miners are untrained. Experts say ASM adopts poor quality operational techniques that not only cause environmental disaster and loss of substantial revenue to the country, but also loss of lives as recently witnessed in Niger State, and in some communities in Zamfara State due to the mining of lead and gold. In fact, according to reports, about 28 children died as a result of drinking water poisoned by lead in Niger State. The victims were reported to have had lead levels of about 17 to 22 times higher than the limits established by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The case of Zamfara State in 2010 was more worrisome with 163 people reported to have died from lead poisoning through illegal mining. Interestingly, artisanal and illegal mining are mainly done in rural areas where those involved do not have any legal mineral title or experience. They are villagers who live in some of these mineral sites and they carry out the crude mining operations simply to make a living. As hazardous as these operations are, they do not see the need to take any precautionary measures, subjecting themselves and their families to environmental pollution. It is also disheartening to note that the locally mined products are highly undervalued and sold at a loss as the country lacks the proper licensing to grade and authenticate their finds. In the second quarter of 2013, the federal government inaugurated the board of the Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF). The then minister of mines and steel development, Arch. Mohammed Musa Sada, said the fund would consist of funds appropriated for solid minerals development under the Revenue Act. The fund will also include any sums appropriated for solid minerals development under the Small and Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIS); any fund received as grant, donations, foreign loans, bonds and long term swaps; and any sums appropriated to it by the federal government budgetary allocations, Sada said then. But whether the reason behind the setting up of the fund has been realised, remains an issue of debate. A professor of mining engineering, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Olaniyan Zacheus Opafunso, is of the opinion that most small-scale miners carry out illegal mining which is a major drawback to the sector. He believes that government has an essential role to play in repositioning ASM in Nigeria. There should be a holistic review of Nigerias mining laws. Prior to the Minerals and Mining Decree of 1999, all mining activities were guided by the Minerals Act of 1946. This affected ASM, as the entire mining sector was stifled, Opafunso stated. The mining legislation regulated the titles and licences for miners, their activities and penalised miners in default. However, with the inadequacy of such legislation, illegal mining was a free-for-all trade. Therefore, the legislation regulating the ASM must be reviewed, he added. The professor also identified the involvement of private companies in ASM activities as a way of promoting the development and growth of the scheme while encouraging government to establish ASM Centre of Excellence at the FUTA and University of Jos, the only two universities in Nigeria with Mining Engineering programmes. The World Bank funded centre of Excellence at Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences at Jos has not fulfilled her mandate of rejuvenating Nigerian solid mineral industries because of corruption, leadership tussle and outdated curriculum, Opafunso said. State and private universities should also be encouraged to establish degree programmes in mining Engineering, he added. While identifying access to adequate funding as a major constraint in the development of the ASM sector, Opafunso advocated the setting up of a Nigerian Mineral and Oil Development Bank, which would provide incentives to financial institutions to fund small-scale mining. Even when it is possible to secure loans and financing from banks, interest rates are usually too high for small-scale miners. It is therefore vital that government should provide access to the much needed funds in the form of short and long term loans at affordable and competitive pay back rates, he advised. Corroborating the professors position, National President, Miners Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Sani Shehu, said in other parts of the world, small-scale miners are able to access loans, while special funding for small miners facilitate them to have access to modern mining equipment. Shehu noted that the SMDF unfortunately was not a working fund, adding that ever since its launch, it has not been funded, making it look like one of governments white elephant projects. As I speak with you, that scheme has not been funded and is not working. As concerned stakeholders in the sector, we are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to help make the scheme work. Small-scale mining has the potential of increasing the nations GDP if properly harnessed, he said. With proper government legislation, assistance in modern mining technology and machinery acquisition, creation of a minerals market and adequate funding, stakeholders believe ASM can stimulate local and rural economic growth, with its multiplier effects on the nations economy.
unveiling nigerias gold potentials through artisanal, small scale mining | naija247news
From 2016 to 2020, Nigeria recorded approximately 1.6 million grams. It gold reserve has been estimated to be over 1 million ounces in Osun where detailed exploration and reserve estimation has been done.
Gold in Nigeria was dated back to 1913. Major gold occurrences are found at various locations in the schist belt of the country; Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Niger, Osun, Kogi, Oyo, Cross River and Kwara states.
Other challenges associated with gold mining include loss of revenue due to the government, smuggling of gold products, environmental degradation as well as lack of transparency/ accountability in the gold value and supply chain.
To address all these challenges and for Nigeria to compete with other mining countries globally, Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Department (ASM) was created by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD).
PAGMI was also initiated to facilitate establishment of registered and recognised mineral buying centres to take off the gold produced by ASM, aggregate and refine it to London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standard while CBN serves as the off taker.
UNIDO, some Federal Ministries such as Environment, Health and MMSD jointly unveiled the National Action Plan (NAP) for the Reduction and Eventual Elimination of Mercury Use in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining sector in Nigeria.
Mr Jean Bakole, Regional Director and UNIDO Representative to ECOWAS, UNIDO Regional Hub Nigeria, said the policy document was an obligation for Nigeria, as a party under the Minamata Convention and would help drive investments in the mining sector.
He noted that revenue losses due to gold smuggling is humongous because over 95 per cent of local gold sources are from artisanal and small scale operators with difficulties in tracking their operations.
The Minister said that the Federal government was working assiduously to resolve the issues of stigma of fraud, scam and smuggling against the Nigerian native gold sources by the LBMA to optimise earnings from the mineral commodity.
He added that native gold producers that produce in granules or bar form were not registered and the procedure for measuring gold content in all native forms have created uncertainties in the integrity of the local gold market.
The incentive put in place by MMSD for mining investors include exemption from customs and import duties for plant, machinery and equipment for mining operations and three to five years tax holiday as applicable; and tax concessions.