The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in its bid to encourage and promote women in mining activities has continually organized seminars to showcase the shared mining prosperity. This was made known during the recently organized three years account of stewardship held at the National Press Centre, Abuja. The workshop was aimed at collaborating with women in the Mining sector in Nigeria to address social issues in the mining sector which is characterized by child labour, conFLicts, human rights and gender discrimination. It was based on these issues that, Lotanna Amina Egwuatu the founder of MINA STONES shed light on her trend and achievement in the mining sector as a woman. She shared her inspiring experience with the team of the Nigeria Monthly magazine.
Nigeria Monthly: How did you start the Business?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu:” I had passion for stones from childhood. This idea was borne out of my creativity. I could remember while in the primary school I picked stones on my way to school and at a point, it got me into troubles while reshaping my mum’s old jewelry. I was stringing shells for my friends and I also made badges for them”.
Nigeria Monthly: Tell us about your educational background?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: “I am a graduate of Engineering from Covenant University, Otta Ogun State.
Nigeria Monthly: From where do you derive your inspiration?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: “My zeal and desire never to drop my passion for jewelry developed stronger after graduating from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as a Gemologist. T h e inspiration behind my creativity is rooted in my Nigerian origin and the rich cultural variations and nature surrounding me. I have always believed in originality and artistic expression”.Nigeria Monthly: Where do you get the stones from?Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: “I collect stone from miners in different locations like Nasarawa , Kaduna and Niger State etc”.
Nigeria Monthly: What is your source of funding?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: “Basically, greater part of my funding come from family support and self funding, so I buy the stones from miners and process them”.
Nigeria Monthly: For how long has Mina Stones been in existence?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu : “Unofficially, It started in 2003 and officially my business as Mina Stones commenced in 2011 and I was GIA (Gemology Institute of America) certified in 2018”.
Nigeria Monthly: How has Mina Stones Impacted others in the Gemstones business?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu : “Mina Stones collaborated with the Raw Material Research and Development Council by organizing an exhibition sometime in October 2015 with the theme “Nigeria Gemstone Investors Delight”. The exhibition brought to limelight ways to develop gemstones business in Nigeria and this attracted over 300 hundred participants which include the GIA representative, accredited professionals in the gemstone industry within and outside Nigeria”.
Nigeria Monthly: What is the Social Corporate Responsibility of Mina Stones?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu : “Mina Stones ideology basically is giving back to the society, specifically by creating awareness to the local miners, of the financial benefits of gemstones and also assisting their children with schools fees , clothing materials and other necessities through Mina Stones Foundation”.
Nigeria Monthly: Where do you see Mina Stones in 5 years?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: “ I see Mina Stone becoming a household name in Nigeria and other countries .It hopes to bring awareness about the untapped resources by creating a platform that will attract investors to Africa and Nigeria specifically. I hope to establish outlets in US, Dubai, China and Japan.
Nigeria Monthly: As a certified Gemologist are you the first to venture into this business in Nigeria?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu : “ People say that I am the first Gemologist and a Jeweler in Nigeria”.
Nigeria Monthly : How has business been?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: “ I don’t have problems with selling the product but meeting up with demands of my clients”.
Nigeria Monthly: What are the challenges you face as a woman in this line of business?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu : “Sometimes I face a great deal of gender discrimination but I am not discouraged. Also a major challenge is the fact that Nigerians know too little about precious stones (Gemstones). I’ve had to explain over and over that natural gemstones are not man- made crystals or imitations. They are mined from the earth.”
Nigeria Monthly: What are your hobbies?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: “: I enjoy reading and travelling “
Nigeria Monthly: On a final note, what is your advice to young people who want to venture into this line of business?
Lotanna Amina Egwuatu: ”I realize that many people especially in Nigeria know only about Diamonds. but there are so many other types of precious stones like Sapphire, Emeralds, Morganite, Zircon, Topaz, Onyx, Scapolite etc. and most people do not know anything about them. I strongly urge young miners to take advantage of the awareness created by Mina Stones through its numerous training and exhibition programmes and tap into this precious, viable and yet to be fully harnessed business in Nigeria.”