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22 january 2024

Simon_Njovu_big.jpgSimon Njovu is currently the Board Chairman of The Small Scale Miners Association of Zambia (SSMAZ). Born in the year 1981 in Kitwe Copperbelt, Simon Njovu did his secondary school at Kitwe Boys.

Thereafter Simon went to study Human Resources Management with Copperbelt University, where he graduated with a Degree in Human Resource Management in 2005. After University, Simon engaged in different business, especially in the mining sector which was in need of materials and goods and services to the mining smelters.

In 2009, Simon Njovu then formed the Small Scale Miners Association of Zambia, which prompted him to start advocating for Artisanal Small Scale Miners during that time. From then he has worked closely with the Zambian government to help formalize the ASM sector, provide legal framework, capacity building within the Artisanal Mining Sector and help formulate laws to govern the industry.

Simon Njovu also recently graduated with a Bachelor's in Public Administration from the National Institute of Public Administration. He has been associated in the mining industry for over 15 years of, base metals, precious minerals and gemstones sector.

Here, in an Exclusive Interview with Rough&Polished, Simon Njovu explains in detail, giving an insight into the workings of SSM & Artisanal miners of Zambia based on his experience in the sector.

Some excerpts…


Please provide the readers the activities of the SSMAZ from inception till date. What incidents/ difficulties has the Association faced and overcame over the years?

The association has faced many difficulties because many government agencies thought we were supporting illegalities within the mining sector. We fought for the rights to mine as citizens, rights to buy and sell minerals, and rights to offload different materials coming from DRC and Zambia.

Zambia has treated artisanal small scale mining as a sector with a lot of conflicts, illegal transactions of which it’s not the case. ASM mines on a small scale level, provide materials for the processing plants to produce more cathodes, produce uncut emeralds and produce alluvial gold to different buyers within the mining vicinity. The association has more than 4500 registered members who are in different mining activities.

The many challenges have been... access to market, lack of equipment which is very expensive to meet production. Lack of aid to help our small scale miners to have access to mountainous areas, bridges on some big rivers to access high grade minerals. Every organization must have support from cooperating partners when setting up the organization which we are lacking at the moment.

The other challenges we have faced is participating in gemstone auctions because we have low capital investment. If this is supported it can help the organization to grow.

How does SSMAZ manage to tax the artisanal miners, especially the illegal miners, and rectify the production data from ASM?

ASM runs from taxes and it’s the duty of the organization of small scale miners to be reminded over tax compliance. The organization has worked tirelessly to sensitize members on how they need to pay taxes to the government. This has been a challenge because the production costs are very high hence diverting the taxes to profits. We need to create programs for the ASM to understand the importance of paying taxes.

What are the main challenges faced by small scale miners in Zambia?

The many challenges faced by ASM in Zambia is proper equipment to open up veins or belts with High grade minerals, you know the deeper you go down the higher the grade. This has been a big challenge because they cannot meet targeted production. Access to financing, higher purchasing of trucks and other equipment, capital investment to operationalize the mines, geological information [are necessary] for you to have a programmed mine.

The Artisanal and small-scale mining workers all over the world are struck by poverty and diseases. How is this problem tackled in Zambia on the whole?

We need help on this, yes it’s everywhere in the ASM sector. The environment is not clean because there’s no proper sanitation for the men and women working in that mining area. No proper drinking water, no first aid boxes when you are bitten by a snake, no safety precautions and equipment. We are tackling the problem by encouraging them to form cooperatives so that through the government we can formalize them and provide them with artisanal mining licenses and equipment.

The ASM sector has been neglected globally, but not much has been done to address the problem till date. While SSMAZ tries to take care of Zambia, is there any attempt by World Organisations to address this sector's problems and provide the required relief?

The ASM sector has really been neglected by funders, humanitarian organizations and other security agencies because they don’t want communities to be involved in the mining industry. From 2020 we have seen a change by seeing many organizations participating in partnerships with ASM organizations. We need more organizations to come and help settle the artisanal miners, help them produce more and create a very good working environment.

What steps should be taken by the Mining industry to support and shape the ASM sectors for better productivity?

The steps to be taken is to formalize artisanal miners, we have been called names, neglected and we actually support large scale mines. We are mining the same products, it can be good if we are supported then we can sell minerals back to them with LME pricing. We need to support the ASM sector because it will help achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030. We need to support the ASM sector because it brings development in the communities and contributes to the economic development of the region.

How has the SSMAZ supported the sector by improving methods to formalize the mining community in Zambia?

The government of Zambia has been very supportive towards formalization of the sector. Since the inception of the current government we have seen a significant improvement in increased access to funds, creating a conducive environment for the ASM sector. In the 2024 budget allocation there has been an increase of 160% funding to the ASM sector.

This will encourage more to join the sector because many people are into mining and will come out in the open. Our hope is to see more buyers of copper, gold and emeralds to come through in Zambia and partner with the association for more investment.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor in Chief of the Asian Bureau, Rough & Polished