Garin Auwal is located in Fakai Local Government area of Kebbi State. The remote community though regarded as Gidan Zinari (Home of Gold) was supposedly a sleeping community in the deep dry land area of the state.
Despite its huge gold deposits in commercial quantity and despite the enormous exploitation it was undergoing in the hands of Chinese miners for over 10 years, the community has not seen any major development.
The Chinese miners, called ISS HASS Ltd, settled with their families in Gidan Zinari and embarked on massive exploration of the precious mineral. They brought huge machines for excavation and mining activities in the vast settlement. However, the only visible impact anyone could notice on entering the vicinity is the damage done to the vast land in the course of gold exploration by both the expatriates and local miners. Besides, it was also alleged that the mining company has neither fulfilled any of the agreements reached with the federal government nor the ones with the host state government.
At the start of their mining operation in the area, ISS HASS Ltd had projected and made agreement with the federal and hosting state government that it would produce 700 ounce of gold in Garin Auwal.
While defending the company on why it could not meet the agreed 700 ounce, ISS HASS site engineer, Muhammed Adamu, told the Minister of Solid Mineral, Dr Kayode Fayemi, during his official visit to the mining sites at Garin Awal that they could only produce 200 ounce of gold as against the projected 700 ounce because they had earlier envisaged huge gold deposit in the area but when they started they realized it was impossible to realize 700 ounce per month as projected. He said: “It is true we promised them mosque, school and hospital but we have not provided them. We will do it soon.”
However, one of the leaders of the local miners, Abubakar Abdullahi, who claimed they were operating side by side with the Chinese company at Garin Awal faulted the site engineer’s claim. He told the Minister of Solid Minerals that on monthly basis the local miners were making 500 ounce of gold against ISS HASS’ 200 ounce which has machines, like Lenter/Heister that has the capacity to dig deep to over 100 metres beneath the earth.
Abdullahi said for them to achieve 500 ounce of gold target, “We usually go up the mountain areas of the site to pack up stones, break them into pieces with our local tools and bring them down for processing. We usually get 10grams of gold per day from a sack of stones we pack from the mountain. Thereafter, we grind them with the grinding machines, sieve the mud and in the process we could get over 500 grams from a sack of stones within one month. About 1,000 youths are involved in gold mining here. Many of them took to mining because the license operators refused to employ them.”
The minister, Dr. Olukayode Fayemi and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu could not hold their anger over the exploitative activities of the Chinese miners in the area. Their angers grew when the Village Head of Garin Auwal, Alhaji Danjuma Musa explained to the minister and the governor how the mining company has been exploiting and deceiving the community for the past 10 years it has settled there to do gold exploration.
In his words: “For the past 10 years they have settled in our community with their families. They tap our resources but they have not been helping us. They promised us mosque, school, hospital but they have not fulfilled their promise. The only road they constructed here was not for the benefit of our community, it was to provide a link to their mining site.”
Expressing his disappointment, the minister said: “It is the duty of my ministry to put them to task. We need to ask them why all they promised the host community were not provided. Though they claimed their expectations have not been actualized the ministry would investigate to see why it is possible for rudimentary operators like the local artisan miners to produce higher gold than the licensed and professional operators who are supposed to be the drivers of this economy going by all the efforts they have put in setting up the facilities they have in the state. ”If we find out this is not true, without a doubt, there will be a sanction”.
The minister said the Federal Government would enter into partnership with the Kebbi State government and its local artisan miners to produce gold in large quantities in Fakai, Bagudo and Shanga areas of the state. He said: “We have put N5bn in the Bank of Industry for the use of small scale artisan miners like the ones we have in Kebbi State so that they did not only earn a living but would be able to contribute to the state’s economy and that of the country at large. This is how our economy can be real economy and not the Casino type of economy”.
He said he was impressed to see the artisan miners who by dint of their hard work have been producing gold in higher quantities and as well organizes themselves into groups. “What we need to do is to enter into partnership with the state government and the artisan gold miners by offering them legitimate land space to operate, technical support by way of equipment, encourage them to operate safer way of mining practice beyond the use of mercury which is dangerous and support them with credit guaranteed through the Bank of Industry”.
Moved by the commitment of the local miners Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu said he was happy the artisans had demonstrated that it was possible for them to produce gold through a short process. He said: “We hope this investment will continue to produce kilos of gold to boost the state and the country’s economy. The visit of the two ministers from the ministry of solid minerals was an endorsement of the vision of the local miners in Kebbi State and a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to give pride of place to all facets of the nation’s economy to operate at the optimal capacity.”