Nigerian women need sensitisation and access to funding and technology to drive their participation in the mining sector, experts in the sector have said.
The experts spoke on Friday during a webinar session on the theme “Driving Innovation to manage the mining sector in the post-COVID-19 Era.”
The session was organised by the Australia Alumni Association of Nigeria (AAAN) and Women In Mining in Nigeria (WIMIN) , in collaboration with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
Speaking to the participants, the President, Women in Mining in Africa/Ghana, Georgette Barnes, said technology needs to get to women in the language they can understand because, all over the world, mines are now becoming automated.
According to her, Africa needs to get to the point where every mine in the continent would be like the Syama mine, which is the most modern mine in Mali and is being managed from Australia.
“I believe Nigeria has the singular strength of starting because, in some of our own countries, we didn’t have the hindsight. And as Ghana took some lessons from Nigeria’s oil and gas, now Nigeria can start things on a much better space”, Mrs Barnes said
She added that “automation is key, remote operation is key, geo and data analytics is key, and collaboration with academia in the industry. So in terms of the small-scale mining, we should find a way of letting them work hand in hand with technical universities and polytechnics.”
The Executive Secretary of Solid Minerals Development Fund, Fatima Shinkafi, in her presentation, said women are more involved in processing minerals and are hardly seen going underground in the mining sites. She said they should be given better technology to enable them handle materials that would not be expose them to risks.
“So technology and education, sensitizing the women, from an innovative perspective and giving them access to funding is what we are doing. We presented the first locally sourced bullion bar to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with Mr President. That is the first time we will ever source gold locally in Nigeria. And we plan to have women mostly, 70 per cent, at the processing centres,” she said.
On financial inclusion, she said at the moment, women have limited and poor access to finance.
“We can do a deliberate programme where we will give support to women in mining and give them technical support as well as finances so they can succeed those corporations that would employ Nigerians and others to create wealth,” she said.
She called on financial institutions to recognise women who need financing for their projects.
Josephine Aburime-Shine, the CEO/MD, Emotan Global Ventures Limited, said rather than focus on the international market, Nigeria should start off by building its local markets.
“The importance of building a local market is that when we have a thriving market, we don’t even have to make any effort for international investors to come here. They will come to look for us and then we are able to retain our wealth here.
“One of my biggest concerns is that we are exporting ore in their raw state. And what this means is that no ore is ever actually just an individual item. Usually, iron is a combination of very important minerals together.
“At the moment, we don’t have many local companies adding value to our solid minerals. A lot of it is exported out in very raw form for very little money and then we have to spend a lot of money to buy it back once it’s been processed in other countries.
“So we are losing a lot of revenue and we are also missing out on the taxes that should be paid if we were able to add this value before these products actually left the country,” she stated.
However, she added that branding Nigeria and its products more efficiently with the help of the government and other companies to bring the products to the limelight would go a long way to “help us move this industry forward and in getting us ahead.”
‘Learn from us’
The Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Claire Ireland, in her keynote speech, said the mining sector has the opportunity to fill the gap of a staggering economy.
“In the first month of the lockdown in Australia, we had a trade cycle of $10.6 billion, and this was absolutely and fundamentally due to the export of our mining sector; export of iron ore to China, and the tripling of our gold export.
“While the sustained impact of the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly hit us, the buffering of the mining sector has gone a long way to ease the economic challenges we are facing with COVID-19, and this is something I really hope Nigeria would learn from and position itself for future-kind of crises.
“Nigeria has the opportunity to learn lessons from other countries in ensuring its mining industry is developed economically, vehemently, and in a socially sustainable manner.”
Furthermore, Ms Claire said inclusive economic development is essential and makes good business sense.
“This means right now as the industry is still young, Nigeria should strive for equal gender representation in the mining sector. It is good for business and good for innovation. While the Australian companies are now working hard to achieve this, with over 100 years of a male-driven industry, Nigeria has the chance to seek the gender balance right from the beginning,” the envoy said.
In her closing remarks , the Programme Director, PTCIJ, Oluwatosin Alagbe, spoke on the importance of collaboration. She said collaboration should not just be between miners, “it should be all-encompassing, that is, between all stakeholders – miners, academics, retailers, government, etc”.
She added that data needs to be made available so that it can be analysed and inform decisions.