FG Advocates Safer Mining Practices For Communities | Nigeria Today
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FG Advocates Safer Mining Practices For Communities

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The unmitigated activities of illegal miners across Nigerian communities have continued to lead to loss of lives and revenues, and having debilitating effects on the environment. This is even as the federal government through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has reiterated its commitment to ensuring the development of the sector through safer mining practices, Ruth Tene Natsa writes.

Four people were reported dead, and over 10 injured, in Muye Village, Kafinkoro District, Paikoro local government area, Niger State, as a result of unsafe mining practices; and speaking at the site of the incident, the minister of mines and steel development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who led a delegation of the top staff of the ministry to the site, said that they were there for more investigation into the report from the mines officer on what led to the unfortunate loss of two lives in the course of what could better be described as a gold rush by artisanal miners operating in that local government.

Reacting to the activities of illegal miners in Nigeria, he said, “The truth of the matter is that it is very pervasive and extensive, and it is all over the country. The people involved in it maybe as many as 6-10 million Nigerians.”




The minister posited that illegal miners also use dangerous chemicals such as mercury and cyanide in processing the gold dust and advocated for the practice of safe mining, using more acceptable chemicals.

In his words, “The mercury and cyanide they use in washing the gold dust is a problem because they have long term debilitating effects on the community, particularly young people. Our approach is to develop a framework that is not just a law and order framework because the bulk of the people involved in this are not conscious criminals, they come from within the community and see this as their legitimate land where they could farm or do anything that they consider their birth right.”

Fayemi assured that the mines’ officer of the state has been engaging and encouraging the community to register a cooperative and acquire a lease while also offering them the kind of assistance that can be sustained for a long time through safer mining practices.

“Only a few months ago the minister of state and I were in Shakira village, Kagara local government area, where people lost their lives on accounts of these unsafe mining practices that are engaged in by local communities. Our approach is to put a stop to that, find safer mining approaches, provide it to them legitimately, support them with capacity building and access to finance, and even make land available to them legitimately. Whether you call it small scale licence or artisanal mining licence, something within the law has to be done so that they practise their profession legitimately, earn a living and become less of a menace to the society,” he said.

This, he said, will help them fulfil the mandate that the president has given that “mining must become a job-creating and revenue-generating vehicle for Nigeria. Once we are able to do that we will also be able to protect the interest of the larger mining operators who have legitimate exploration licences or mining leases that have not been able to use them because artisanal mining/informal miners have invaded their lands.”

He stressed the need to protect the communities, saying, “We need to protect them and ensure that Nigeria is an investment destination that is attractive to miners and at the same time ensure that our own people are beneficiaries of the natural resources that we are endowed with as a country. The minister who also spoke on child labour said that government at all levels is opposed to the use of children for mining, adding that Nigeria as a nation had domesticated the Child Rights Act (CRA), not just over mining but over every form of labour and stressed that “it is our failure as a country if we fail to enforce the law.”

On the security for miners, Fayemi said, “Very soon we are going to be unfolding a media campaign and enlightenment on all platforms on mining in our various communities. We already have a vehicle in the Inter-ministerial and Surveillance Task Force that is comprised of the military, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Economic Financial Crimes Commission, State Security Service, also known as Department of State Services, and Police. They are all working together with us, the director of the Mines Inspectorate, and federal mines officers in the state. We need to improvise and synergise to develop a protocol that they would all share in to achieve the objectives we have. The idea is not to lock up people in jails unnecessarily, but to ensure that we protect the investment of those who have approached us legally and the communities where these take place. We believe that with enlightenment and supporting the artisanal miners we will resolve this matter.”

He asserted that there is more consciousness in mining in Nigeria now more than what it used to be before, so we owe it as a duty to all concerned to develop the partnership between the federal, states and LGAs, and host communities

Also speaking the minister of state, Abubakar Bwari, who expressed excitement at the discovery of gold in multiple locations in Niger State, lamented the activities of illegal miners, stressing the need for them to be organised properly.

He said, “I am so excited that we have so many places where gold has been discovered. That is an indication that Niger State is rich in gold and other minerals and for me it’s a thing of joy. But, unfortunately, the way we are mining it is affecting the people and environment, hence the need for us to organise it properly.

“We are here to sympathise with the people. It is very clear that what has happened is as a result of the crude mining method, so we are here with the some of our directors, including the director of the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining, Mines Inspectorate, Environmental Compliance, and so on, to see how best we can organise mining activities not only in Niger, but all over Nigeria. We are paying attention to a lot of the minerals: gold, iron, coal, bitumen, tantalite, lead, zinc, and so on, depending on what is available in each state. We are paying the same kind of attention to Niger state now because Nigeria needs to invest more in her mining activities due to the problem we are having in the oil sector and the president has shown that one of his cardinal economic agenda is to diversify into mining and agriculture.”

He asserted that the president had given the sector all the necessary support to encourage the development of mining.

One of the illegal miners, Abubakar Mohammed, who told LEADERSHIP that they had discovered gold in the community said that they were greatly challenged as they were constantly harassed by security operatives.

“My challenge is to have a mining lease so that whatever I am doing will be legal. Security men come and chase us around and even on the district level, they usually come with policemen and harass us, insisting that we should follow the legal procedures. Because I want to engage in legal practices, I went to the mines office where we were advised on the procedure. The only thing challenge is that I do not have the N250,000  required to register a small scale mining lease,” he said.

We were told that for the we need and we do not have that because we now are just starting,” he said.

Abubakar assured that, in their interest to practise legal mining, they had already constituted a ten man member and ready to form a cooperative to benefit from all the promises made by government

He said if I get the mining license I will organise my operations to ensure that everybody especially the youths in the community benefit, because majority of the youths are graduates but have no work to do.

“I am very happy now that the government has come, because I am sure very soon we will begin to do it in a better way and it will be doing in a better way , putting in more efforts” he said

Speaking on the activities which led to the deaths of some of the miners, he said “We started and the mango tree collapsed on the people mining, even the people that were above the dug site also fell, more than 10 people were wounded” he said

The Miner who is an indigene of Muye village revealed that, other labourers invite illegal miners from other places, some come from Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Libya and Niger all for illegal mining

 

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This post was syndicated from Nigerian News from Leadership News. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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