Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The federal government has restated the urgent need for states and local governments to commence registration of artisanal miners operating in their domain in a bid to ensure safer mining environment and improve revenue.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, made the call recently when he paid a courtesy visit to the mining site, where illegal mining activities recently claimed four lives at Muye Kafinkoro Village, Paikoro Local Government Area, Niger State.
Fayemi, who was accompanied by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Abubakar Bawa Bwari, lamented the unfortunate incident, where a mango tree fell and killed four out of about a hundred local miners looking for gold dust in an illegal site, located in the earth of the village.
He hinted that environmental degradation and unhealthy practices that characterised illegal mining activities would be curtailed if artisanal miners are properly registered into groups within their localities.
According to him, “Many of the artisanal miners were ignorant people, who were out to eke a living, and in the process got involved, unconsciously, in some other nefarious activities.
He said: “Illegal mining activities remained a major threat to big miners. In organising and formalising activities of artisanal miners, the country would also be protecting the big miners and assuring them that Nigeria is a safe mining destination.
The Minister noted that, “If the states and local government authorities can assist in registering them into groups, it will be easy for the federal mining offices in the states to relate with them, provide them with logistics and professional supports and give them licenses that will enable them operate legitimately.
“The ministry’s officials will organise them into cooperatives, tutor them on safer mining processes, introduce them to equipment leasing, coordinate them to benefit from our financial support and then they can operate in a more professional manner, which will also translate into better sources of income for them and increased revenue for government.
“This is better than a situation where they continue to operate illegally, without any knowledge of the industry and the inherent health hazard to themselves and the immediate community.”
Fayemi while addressing some local miners in the village, assured them of the ministry’s cooperation if they would abide by laid down procedures. Adding that governments plans to encourage the setting up of minerals buying centres across the country to ensure that minerals are properly priced and sold in a structured market setting as opposed to underground sales that had robbed both the local miners and the country of the expected financial gains.
“I will urge you to cooperate with government. Whenever the minerals buying centres are set up in your locality, patronise it. It is not good for us to take gold out of Nigeria and get it registered as gold from Niger, Togo or Ghana. You will even get a better patronage when you take your minerals to the buying centres.
Continuing, he said: “Be prepared to take advantage of the equipment leasing scheme when it takes off. This would help you make use of modern equipment that will improve your productivity and profitability as against crude implements you currently use.”
He therefore, urged states and local government authorities to champion the registration process for local miners, adding that it is only through this approach that their operations could be monitored, guided and supported for optimal contribution to the economy and for a safer mining environment.
“It will also help them to work and earn money legitimately so that mining can become job creating and revenue earning work.”
On the health challenges to the miners and the community, Fayemi explained that many of the local miners, in their desperate bid to separate the gold (or other minerals) from dust, apply some lethal substances including mercury and cyanide, which are poisonous and constitute health risk to the immediate environment.