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Mining environmental impacts in Plateau State

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By Mercy Kelani

Many past decades of large-scale mining still have effect on soil fertility.

In the 20th century, there was a discovery of tin ore in Plateau State, north-central Nigeria, in large quantities. Resultantly, the large scale mining activities began in 1905. This operation created employment opportunities for the British in charge and for the local, resulting in foreign exchange for the then colonial government; the environment was also largely impacted. Large scale mining has ended in the state since about a century ago with continuation of unlicensed small scale mining conducted by unemployed locals.

Currently, local residents of the communities, like Ganawuri and Danwal, where the large mining operations were carried out has still challenged with the consequence of the previous and ongoing environment destruction caused by mining tin. The communities have very few trees as many of them were cut down to carry out mining operation. There are several abandoned mining ponds of about 50 to 70 meters deep in these communities. There are also heaps of sands, known as mine tailings, solidified by many years of sun exposure that punctuates farmlands.

Soil healthiness and productivity is compromised.

The negative impacts of these operations greatly affect crop yields of farms and, according to local farmers might discourage younger generations from farming. The degradation that is caused by many years of tin mining has resulted in more poor soil fertility. Nafiu Adewale, PhD in soil sciences, an expert in soil nutrition and plant fertility, and Head of the Inspectorate and Accreditation Unit at the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science Research, affirmed that complaints of poor soil fertility by farmers can be scientifically proven.

In Nafiu’s statement, mining have impacts on the physical and chemical properties of the soil. These impacts determine the healthiness and productivity of the soil. During the process of operation, there is the excavation of the soil which leads to loss of nutrient. An altercation of the physio-chemical properties of the soil means the soil is no longer healthy. Therefore, there is a decrease in organic carbon which in turn leads to lower yields. Properties of the soil contributes greatly to the plant growth, so when affected planted crops do not produce good yields.

NPK fertilizers, although efficient, cause soil acidification.

According to an expert, usage of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) fertilizers could foster improvement on crop yields. However, the exorbitant price of these fertilizers serves as an impediment for poor local farmers in the region. Also, there is a possibility that constant use of NPK could cause soil acidification, decreasing the soil’s pH level, causing the soil to be more acidic and affecting the absorption of nutrients from the soil by plant. More studies have been released, concerning the consequences of mining operations.

Five scientists from the department of Plant Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Jos, studied the impacts of tin mine tailings on crop growths and development in Jos. Their findings revealed that mine waste has impact on the growth and productiveness of the common bean and other crops. These effects are threat to the survival of Danwal residents and other communities and indigenous groups in the state; each of the 8 districts in Plateau State has about 18 villages with people who are predominantly farmers.

15 identified gully erosion sites have been reclaimed.

Former Commissioner for Environment, Usman Idi, stated that the state government was deeply affected by the situation and was putting effort into reclaiming some of the gullies in the state. He added that there is an ongoing collaboration between the state and federal and the ministry of the environment to figure out ways of recovering the some of these areas. The ministry asserted that it has retrieved 15 identified gully erosion sites in Plateau State, with reclamation working in progress in many of them.

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