Emotan Josephine Aburime-Shine is the CEO of Piramen Ventures which mines industrial minerals and precious stones. She said the industry is a huge revenue earner but that Nigeria has not benefitted much from it as it is not adding value to its gemstone and other minerals. She however said that is about to change soon with the setting up her companies lapidary in the country.
Why did you go into the mining and gemstone business?
I have always collected stones; I have been fascinated by stones all my life. I got into mining by chance because obviously I am an artist. I did a little bit of travelling and then got to find out about the gemstone market and how it fares in Africa. What I gathered was that Africa is completely blessed with many riches, wealth, gemstones, minerals and gold. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reap the benefits of this blessing because we have not added value to it. What we take abroad goes for little money. So, even if the miners make effort and get the stones, they don’t get the benefit because they have been poorly positioned in the market and also because we don’t add value to the gemstones.
Coming from the private sector, what are you doing to help grow this sector?
I think one of the most important things we have to do is to train labour for the sector. We need to train people to do various things in the industry; so that all that labour is not lost to India, Sri Lanka and other countries where people go to cut the stones at the moment. They come and buy our stones and take them elsewhere to be cut and polished. Because of that we lose money as we are not able to sell at good prices solely because we do not add value to it.
So if we can start to train and have proper standard for cutters; set-up proper labs that can validate the stones to international standard, then we can make profit. There is lots of room for growth in industry.
Do you have a laboratory for cutting and polishing?
We have a lapidary and we are training people already on how to cut and polish the stones.
How many people have you trained so far?
We opened recently and we have trained four people already. We are going to create a bigger space and then a bigger group can come in for the training. We have two people in-house who are professionals who train people. With the setup we have presently, we can only train 12 to 20 people at a time. We plan to have these facilities in other states as well to offer the training. So it will be a nationwide training. We would like to set up in Benin, Lagos, Jos and more. The North is very important because you have those who have already been in the mining field. So offering them these skills is going to be useful.
Can other miners also come in here to cut and polish their stones?
We want to encourage people to bring in their stones so we can cut for them rather than taking it abroad where it is sometimes stolen. We will cut and polish for them.
We were recently granted mining leases for two of our mining sites. We have got miners on site who are working hard for us as well.
What training have you received as an operator?
With any industry you operate in, the more knowledge you have, the better. I have attended some training to help recognise the stones. In the UK were I was based, I attended training courses on spotting gemstones.
You said the gemstone industry is one of the hugest, can you tell us more?
The mining sector in Nigeria is huge because obviously we have must of the metals, like gold, lead, gemstones and other minerals. So, every metal that is found in this country is of some value to some industry. And a lot of it has not been really tapped in the past. Because the investment required to set up the processing structure to add value is very huge.
What we are trying to create is a safe environment where people can fly in from other countries to come and cut and polish their gemstones instead of going to Thailand as they do at the moment. That will bring in more income, create more jobs as well as boost tourism.
How are you partnering with government to do this?
We are working together to organise more training programmes for the youths. We want to provide it free for the people. For youths that can’t afford it, they can come here and learn how to cut and polish the stones. You can come here and learn the skills and in a matter of months you will be empowered with a skill that will earn you money. If government supports us with funds to continue to provide this training for free, it will go a long way to empower more youths.
Will their services be required in the long run?
I have space for more cutters and that has not been filled as other people are also setting up lapidary so their services will definitely be required. When we have more cutters, then we will be able to cut more stones in commercial scale. At the moment, we can only cut a few stones. But if we have an order to produce 1000 cut stones, we’ll need a larger workforce to be able to deliver that.
How do you cope at mining sites?
I don’t have to go to site most times because I have professionals who do that. But when I have to go to site, it’s exciting. My only sadness is the security challenge. Besides that, when you are doing this type of work, you are excited because you are going to get something really precious. As long as you are doing something you love, that is what motivates you.
Tell us about your educational background?
I was born here in Nigeria, in Benin. I moved to the UK at the age of 12 and started my study there. I did my A level in the boarding house and I went to Middlesex university were I studied Philosophy and Business. But because I am a creative person, I went into business and music.
Piramen is a subsidiary of Emotan Global Ventures. Piramen is the gemstone side of the business, while Emotan consists of the metal side of the business. I am also a music artiste so I have Phine Record which is the music label of the company. We set up the studio for people who want to record to come here.