Illegal mining raises security, environmental concerns in Nigeria

The extraction of mineral resources, which occurs in some parts of the country without the necessary approval from the statutory regulatory authorities, has continued to generate security concerns.

This is not unconnected to the fact that several Nigerians and even foreign nationals have in the last few years either been killed or abducted by criminal elements at the mining sites.

Similarly, because the activities of the miners are not monitored or regulated by relevant authorities, they tend to operate without guidelines, leading to environmental hazards and killing of operators.

It was gathered that collaborations between politically connected individuals and Chinese corporations in illegal mining of gold and other resources is also responsible for banditry and violent local conflicts in some parts of Nigeria, including the North West, North Central and to some extent, South West.

According to reports, an estimated 80% of mining in the North West region is carried out illegally and on an artisanal basis by local populations, causing security breaches in communities.

The mining of largely untapped mineral deposits in some parts of the country, especially gold, which has strategic importance and economic value, is at the root of violence in several communities.

MEZIESBLOG recalls that about ten years ago, precisely in 2010, the outbreak of lead poisoning in Zamfara State led to the death of over 500 children, according to reports.

Prior to the incident, the Federal Government had banned mining in the state, as police consider illegal mining to be behind an ongoing spree of violence and kidnapping in the region.

Aside from the security issues, several Nigerians have lost loved ones on the basis of the collapse of illegal mining sites.

MEZIESBLOG recalls that about four illegal miners were, in August this year, killed following the collapse of a mining site in Kogo Kadage village in the Yadagungume area of Ningi Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

According to reports, the incident occurred when the miners were digging lead and trying to excavate it.

Lead, which is one of the mineral resources common in the area, was being illegally excavated when suddenly, one of the holes they dug collapsed on them and buried them underneath.

Recently, about 30 people were killed in a landslide caused by the activities of illegal miners in the Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

The unfortunate development was disclosed during the maiden meeting between the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, and the chairmen of the six area councils on September 8.

Wike, who was shocked at the development, asked the council bosses to set up a surveillance task force in their areas to monitor mining activities, just as he promised to meet with his counterpart in Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, to begin talks on the elimination of illegal mining in the territory.

Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on July 14, arrested 13 Chinese nationals over alleged engagement in illegal mining activities in Ilorin, Kwara State.

A discrete investigation on the activities of the miners in Kwara State had revealed that the operators have different illegal mining sites in almost all the 16 local government areas of the state.

Barely four weeks ago, the Taraba State Task Force on the Enforcement of Ban on Illegal Mining and Deforestation arrested 3,500 illegal miners in the Bali local government area of the state.

The chairman of the task force Brig.-Gen. Jeremiah Faransa (rtd), who made this known to journalists, said the illegal miners arrested were from Mali, Senegal, Chad, Zamfara and other parts of the country.

He said the state was richly blessed with abundant natural resources begging to be harnessed not just for the benefit of the locals but the state and the country at large.

On September 1, operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, arrested 34 suspects for allegedly carrying out illegal mining operations in Rumuokarali/ Rumualogu community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.

NSCDC Commandant, Rivers State Command, Basil Igwebueze who disclosed this while parading the suspects, explained that the arrests were made possible through credible intelligence and the efforts of the patrol team of the NSCDC Sold Minerals Unit, the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, and the Ministerial Task Force on illegal mining.

A Security columnist, Elder Ben Okezie who spoke with the media on Saturday, attributed the engagement in illegal mining by some Nigerians to the economic situation of the country.

According to him, “The terrorists who live in the forest are the ones causing some of these problems. This is the exact reason why issues like the Boko Haram insurgency will not end soon.

“These criminals are everywhere in the north. They camp where they find these mineral resources, and I can tell you that some people are benefiting from it.

“Until the federal government clamps down on all these terrorist sponsors, issues like illegal mining will continue.

“Many times, especially during the last administration, we heard that the sponsors have been identified but till today, we don’t know who they are.

“The bandits are not just in the forest doing nothing. They are there protecting some people and what they are doing. I am very sure that President Bola Tinubu’s government will do something about this and tackle it once and for all.

“Foreigners are here stealing what belongs to all of us; meanwhile, we are dying of poverty. Are you telling me that some elements in the government, especially the past administration, are not aware of the illegal mining going on in many parts of the country today?

“You see, when the government is concerned about the welfare of the people and everything seems to be working, all these things will stop.

“People are suffering, and they have to find a means of surviving. Crime will not stop until the government creates jobs for our youths and ensures that those who are supposed to be in school are in school. Just ensure that the economy is working, and this thing will end on its own.”