The discovery of a tin deposit in central Nigeria has prompted cooperation between former rival communities to jointly develop an artisanal mining operation, as reported by the BBC World Service.

Conflict between two ethnic groups, the Fulani herders and Berom farmers of the Jos Plateau area, began in 2011 when persistent desertification caused the groups to clash as herders were forced to encroach on the farmers’ agricultural lands.

Thomas Johji, a Berom man in his 20s, was one of the small group of men who found the tin deposit on Fulani grazing land. He asked the local chiefs for their permission, and assistance, to start production. This happened as global tin prices were rising, presenting an economic opportunity that could alleviate pressures felt by both groups as prices spiked in fuel, food and other essential goods.

Joseph Langman, head of the Plateau State Peace Building Agency, says that while the peace is uneasy and there are lots of past grievances still to be addressed, the miners have a role to play restoring peace in the area. His agency is exploring the possibility for training workshops in conflict resolution and will encourage
parties to sign peace accords before mining a concession. Farouk Abubaker, a Fulani man, says that “mining promotes unity and understanding among the different tribes…just as football does”.

Our View
One of the tin mining industry’s unique characteristics is the significant contribution of artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) to the global tin marketplace. Almost all (~97%) of the world’s primary refined tin arises and is mined in emerging and developing countries and in a typical year around 40% of that has its origins in ASM. While productivity is low in comparison to formal mining operations, the sector represents an important source of income and livelihood for millions of families in rural areas of developing countries.

Despite the sector’s challenges, it presents several opportunities for economically marginalised communities such as: job creation, rural development, market linkages, better natural resource management and now peace-building.

Tin mining in Nigeria has grown rapidly in recent years, with estimated production (inferred from concentrate exports) increasing from 2,100 tonnes in 2015 to 5,900 tonnes in 2017.