There has been a recent intensification in the cases of illegal mining activities, which have increasingly become an employment source in many communities in Nigeria. More importantly, these activities have continually attracted bandits and criminal individuals, raising government’s concerns. In 2019, the federal government had to ban mining activities in Zamfara state, as a result of the bedeviled invasion of bandits that led to numerous deaths and kidnappings in the state. In light of the federal government’s ban on unlicensed mining, miners in Edo state have hugely criticized this decision, demanding the government to overhaul its security architecture and rescind this decision.
Communities like Dangbala, in Akoko Edo Local Government Area, Edo State, has witnessed problems with illegal mining. The community, known to be vastly pastoral with residents that practice subsistence farming for survival is said to have been sitting on a huge goldmine and other mineral resources that would help uplift them to good fortune. However, discovery of the goldmine has done little or nothing to elevate the community and it’s inhabitants from the poverty level. This is implicitly as a result of numerous illegal miners that continually exploit the community’s resources. Prior to the state government’s decision to ban mining activities across the state, these illegal miners were reported to have generated millions of Naira based off these illegal activities.
Dangbala community leader complains of continued illegal mining despite ban.
In fact, this discovery has been reported to have overturned the peace that Dangbala community enjoyed due to the invasions of illegal miners. Mustapha Fawaz, an invested miner in Edo state and Managing Director, Macana Nigeria Limited, speaking on the development of the ban on mining however asserts that the federal government‘s plan to ban mining activities across the country would be a counterproductive move. Accepting the increase in illegal activities associated to mining, he posited that the ban would immensely have economic repercussions due to the fact that mining penetrates into every sector in the country.
However, despite the governmental ban, one of the community leaders in Dangbala have complained of the continued illegal mining that goes on in the community. According to him, the community has witnessed an increase in cases of illegal mining and invaders working at night, which he believes have given a rise to criminal activities like kidnapping, rape and banditry in the community. Appealing to the state government to come to the community’s aid as regards improving its security measures, he noted that they felt unsafe in their community, with criminal cases on the rise where they cannot go to their farms and wives being raped in the presence of their families.
Illegal mining, an economic sabotage that must attract huge punishments.
The Edo state chapter of Miners Association of Nigeria however appealed to the government to rescind its decision to ban mining activities, noting that the multiplier effect would affect the delicate economic situation of the country and over 20 thousand people in the state will be thrown off the labor market. Additionally, the association asserted that loss of investment and revenue due to the manufacturing industries’ dependence on products from these mined resources, youth unrest and mass unemployment should be an after effect of the ban on mining. The inability of the appropriate authorities to maximize these natural resources have been blamed as the reason for the encouragement of illegal mining that have thrived across the country.
Recalling 2019, the state’s Ministry of Mines and Steel Development got the information of an illegal mining situation of gold being mined without a valid license in different locations with many materials like bags of gold ore and tantalite retrieved. It was also gathered that foreigners were bankrolling these illegal mines, aided by Nigerians. Mr. Olasukanmi Ayeni, Chairman of NSCDC in the state asserted that these illegal mines were a means of economic sabotage that should attract huge punishments. According to him, there has been numerous reports on illegal mining and miners possessing sophisticated weapons.
Government improving security in mining areas to curb illegal operations.
States like Kebbi, Plateau and Kogi have also witnessed problems with illegal miners, where the governments are also taking respective steps towards regulating mining in the states. These illegal activities however devastate the physical environment, causing deforestation, habitat loss and biodiversity. The Commissioner for Environment and Solid Mineral Resources in Kebbi state, Hatatuseen Jega, on the measures taken to eradicate illegal mining, noted that the government had improved the security operations around the areas of illegal mining operations by arresting these illegal miners. He also said that the states, in cooperation with the Federal Mineral Resource Department are working on securing licenses for those who are willing to mine legally and fulfill their obligations.
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