The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has stated that the creation of a gemstone market will enhance the diversification of Nigeria’s economic base.
In a statement by the head Press Department, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Funmi Imuetinyan, the minister made the comment at the commissioning of the Ultramodern International Gemstone Market in Ojoo-Akinyele Local Government Area, Ibadan, Oyo State, recently.
He said the ministry had designed six strategic artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) Cluster Projects in the six geopolitical zones as a means to harness the potential of the over three million Artisanal and Small Scale Mining operators in the country, and the creation of International Gemstone Market in Ibadan for the Southwest Zone is one of such projects.
He further revealed that the Commissioning of the project is an opportunity to highlight the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to open some of the potential available in the mining sector to serve as alternative revenue source.
“The landmark projects are to create an enabling environment to support the Mining Industry through the formalisation of the ASM sub-sector as a major driver of the key growth parameters to engender the development of the mining sector since over 90 per cent of the mining activities in the country could safely be said to be ASM-driven,” he said.
He further averred that some of the notable envisaged outcomes from the International Gemstone Market including but not limited to the creation of over 20,000 jobs along the gemstone mining value chain in the South-Western Zone cluster; improved revenue generation from the ASM subsector for both operators and government; Increased number of ASM operators that are inventoried, formalised, and receiving technical assistance; the emergence of a subsidiary and service-oriented companies which will further boost economic activities; Improved infrastructure for the benefits of the miners and other surrounding economic actors respectively.
According to him, the International Gemstone Market is designed to be a one-stop-shop for local and international gemstone and gold merchants with facilities to test, certify, document and effect necessary payments for royalties and processing fees required to support direct international travels.
He added that the newly commissioned facility houses over 30 stalls, a banking hall, MMSD office, and stable power supply to enable seamless transactions and value addition, while lapidary and gemological equipment are provided for training on gemstone faceting and cutting.
He also remarked that the Ministry of Mines and Steel under his leadership and that of Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, had as a matter of strategy, prioritised the ASM to stem incessant illegalities in the subsector by initiating and supporting biometric data capturing of all registered artisanal and small-scale miners across the country under the formalisation and mainstreaming of ASM operators.
He revealed that the creation of an ecosystem will minimise the high rate of illegal mining and smuggling, increase government’s revenue from the resource, create jobs, and improve environmental and social stewardship.
He applauded President Buhari for approving the release of funds for the implementation of the project, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who coordinated the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) aimed at cushioning the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, under whose purview the ASM Cluster Project was conceived and approved. He also expressed appreciation for the support of Oyo State Government towards the realisation of the project.
Arc Adegbite also acknowledged the support of international organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, United Nations Development Programme, Global Environment Facility and the governments of Canada, Australia and others towards addressing the ASM issues in Nigeria.
Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde who was represented by the State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Barr Temilola Seun Ashamu remarked that solid minerals is a sector where value can be derived from the existing comparative advantage to grow the economy and improve the GDP of Nigeria.
The governor said it will lead to job creation among Nigerian youths and the labour force that is searching and ready for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Stakeholders in the mining sector present at the commissioning were Miners Association of Nigeria, Women in Mining and some security agencies, among others.