In 2010 and 2011 a project was carried out by Peter Appel and John Tychsen Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland in Nigeria financed by World Bank with the scope to produce a Handbook to help improve small-scale miners performance. An outline is given below:

1. Introduction

1.1. Why this Handbook?

This ASM Handbook has been written to help improving the performance of ASM operators in Nigeria. Every chapter responds to needs and issues that Nigerian female and male miners have said are important to them.

ASM operators throughout Nigeria face many challenges, the most important being lack of training and information in:

  • Geology
  • Mining methods
  • Mineral processing methods
  • Business skills to improve mining operations
  • Safety and health practices
  • Environmental management.

Communities in ASM areas are affected by the mining operations in many positive and negative ways; therefore this Handbook also provides guidance on how to address issues that are critical to community health, environment and development. This will hopefully lead to:

  • Legalisation of ASM operations
  • Improvement of safety
  • Healthier working conditions and environment
  • Access to financing improving operations
  • Increased profits

1.2. Who is the Handbook for?

This Handbook was mainly written for:

  • Government Officers in MMSD, who want to fulfil their mandate to support the national poverty reduction objectives by improving the performance of ASM nationally, in their state, county or village
  • ASM operators. They can use very basic, manual methods or be more organised and somewhat mechanised
  • Community-Based and Non-Governmental Organisations (CBOs/NGOs) who are trying to develop Nigeria

The ASM Handbook is a reference guide, training manual and source of information for any individual or organisation who wants to see ASM operators benefit their communities and their country.

1.3. How to use the Handbook

It is our hope that the answer to most questions related to ASM activities in Nigeria are contained within this book – from clay and sand, over gold and coltan to stone aggregate and marble, from ASM close to towns and cities to the ASM in the most remote parts of the country.

You can read the Handbook cover-to-cover to increase your knowledge about all the topics

or you can select the chapter or section that seems useful to you and start from there.

Use the handbook as a reference book. Go through the table of contents and find the sections that help you deal with different issues as they come up.

1.4. What is mining?

Mining is the activity of extracting and processing economically valuable minerals. The mining industry also includes finding (prospecting and exploring for) mineral resources to make mining possible.

Some examples of economically valuable minerals are:

  • Metals and metal-bearing minerals: gold, copper, zinc, lead, niobium and tantalum (coltan), tungsten (wolfram), tin (cassiterite), aluminum (bauxite) and iron (magnetite)
  • Dimension stone: limestone, stone aggregate, granite, marble, kaolin, clay and sand
  • Gemstones: diamonds, rubies, emeralds, tourmaline, garnet, beryl and amethyst
  • Other useful minerals, such as salt, phosphates and diatomite.

1.5. What is Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM)?

Artisanal Mining (AM) and Small Scale Mining (SSM) are often grouped together as ASM, as a collective name for the lowest levels of the mining sector. This distinction was previously used in Nigeria and according to the 2002 ‘Strategies and Blueprint for Sustainable Development of ASM in Nigeria’ document, the ASM sector in Nigeria could be largely divided into two distinct categories:

  • Artisanal mining – these operations are usually referred to as ‘illegal’ and ‘informal’ and are characterized by a lack of capital, poor workplace health & safety, community health, environmental management and technical mining competence
  • Small-scale mining – usually undertaken by small legal entrepreneurs or companies that are usually under-funded and therefore do not efficiently exploit the potential of their mineral concessions. In fact, many of such exploration and/or mining concessions held by small operators remain dormant or are currently illegally and inefficiently exploited by artisanal miners.

The current Minerals and Mining Act (2007) does not retain this distinction, but solely operates with the collective concept of ASM.

For this handbook we will use the artisanal and small-scale mining – ASM, which covers a wide range of mining activities:

  • Very manual and labour-intensive, using only shovels and a wheelbarrow or somewhat mechanised, using light machinery and equipment
  • Small in scale, employing only a few people working at a small mine site; or large in scale, involving up to hundreds of people in a relatively small area
  • Somewhat disorganised and unlicensed; or organised as a company or in an association which is legal (licensed).

The ASM overall objective is to extract and process minerals to sell them for a profit.