NEGATIVE perception about artisanal and small scale mining in terms of severe environmental impact, human health and safety risks, conflicts and generally few economic benefits, have often overshadowed its great potential in creating trade and job opportunities.
It is a fact that artisanal and small scale mining are blamed for a number of environmental impacts such as deforestation and land degradation, health and safety hazards. However studies are revealing their great potential in job creation because of their labour intensive nature, and economic benefits to neighbouring communities.
Although the industry is often affiliated with large-scale operations and massive capital investments, it is the small scale miners that form the bulk of the sector. They provide a critical livelihood for millions of people across the world and produce a significant portion of the world’s minerals and gemstones, often enduring difficult and hazardous working conditions.
In Tanzania for instance, in comparison with large-scale mining, the country’s artisanal mining sector is smaller in terms of the value of its output but far larger in labour absorption. According to Federation of Miners Association of Tanzania (FEMATA) there are more than six million small scale miners across Tanzania.
While globally artisanal and small scale miners have often not accorded with the attention they deserve as governments embrace large scale mining firms, at least in Tanzania the focus is shifting in their favour with very positive gestures from the government.
The government withdrew licences for the country’s two biggest mining companies, Barrick Gold Corp and London-listed Glencore Plc, from the gold-rich areas in north-western to allow more than 5,000 small-scale miners to gain access to the fields. It also ordered Dr Magufuli revocation of big investors’ licences in Mwakitoria in Mwanza region to make way for small miners.
President John Magufuli has maintained that for years, Tanzanians have not been benefiting from the country’s natural resources, especially minerals, because of dubious investors supported by corrupt government officials.
Early this month Parliament endorsed a bill designed to remove payment of withholding tax of 5 per cent and 18 per cent value added tax by small-scale miners in the nation.
The amendments in mining taxation came as an outcome of a meeting last month between President Magufuli and small-scale miners in Dar es Salaam where the President said it was high time tax regimes imposed on the mining sector were relaxed in order to encourage miners to pay tax and reduce chances of tax evasion.
The road is finally paved for the artisanal and small scale miners. The government has played its part in supporting them and their activities. We do now expect that they will play their part by meeting their tax obligation and follow rules and regulations.