By Okon Bassey
Akwa Ibom State government has issued a guideline to sanitise activities of miners and illegal sand dredgers across the state.
A statement from the State Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Charles Udoh, made available to newsmen in Uyo, said this became necessary as activities of illegal sand dredgers and gravel miners have continued to pose severe environmental and security threat to residents.
He expressed worry that critical state infrastructure and assets were being threatened while several communities have lost their sources of natural drinking water with farm lands devastated due to indiscriminate mining and dredging in many parts of the state.
“It is even more worrisome that suspicious characters from all parts of the country are beginning to find dwelling places in our state under the guise of sand dredging or gravel mining,” Udoh said.
To alleviate these concerns of government, the statement said, a data base of practitioners in the sector has been generated to ensure all mining activities in state are carried out in accordance with the extant laws.
Government also approved a checklist for all current and prospective artisanal miners including formal expression of interest to the state Ministry of Environment (MoE), site verification/Inspection and evidence of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with host communities, he explained.
Others include evidence of operational permit/license by Federal Ministry of Mines & Steel (MoM&S) and National Inland WaterWay Authority (NIWA), where applicable, acceptable Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and evidence of business registration with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
He also requested prospective miners to produce evidence of up-to-date tax clearance from Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service (AKIRS) and environmental Permit issued by the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Environment (MoE). This is renewable annually while approved locations will be mapped.
“It is important to note that all prospective miners and current operators must be certified to have completed this process before commencement of operation. Furthermore, all operators must subject their sites to a mandatory quarterly environmental monitoring as well as an annual environmental audit,” he added.