Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Abubakar Bwari has revealed that the record of Nigeria’s illegal miners has climbed to 2 million.
According to him, these miners who are mostly poor and unemployed are responsible for 90 per cent of the country’s mineral production.
Speaking on Monday in Abuja at the first National Stakeholders’ Discourse on Opportunities and Challenges of Artisanal Mining in Nigeria, Bwari also revealed that close to 50 million people are involved globally.
He also said that these illegal miners who are referred to as Artisanal and Smallscale Miners (ASM) are found mining precious minerals like gold, silver, cassiterite, coltan, lead/zinc, sapphire, emerald etc.
His words, “This stakeholders forum comes at a time when the activities of artisanal miners globally have reached unprecedented scale. According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (2018), close to 50 million people are now engaged in artisanal mining globally.
“With the renewed interest in Mining brought about by the current administration’s diversification efforts, at least 2 million people in Nigeria are now directly or indirectly dependant on ASM for their livelihood.
“Most of them are poor and unemployed, living in rural areas and employing crude methods and household implements to exploit these minerals which they sell to feed their families.“Yet at this stage in our development, these are the people responsible for 90 per cent of the country’s mineral production. They are mostly to be found mining precious minerals like gold, silver, cassiterite, coltan, lead/zinc, sapphire, emerald, tourmaline, aquamarine, gypsum, barytes, silica sand, granite, sandstones, clay, salt, etc.
“Therefore, while we cannot afford to criminalise their activities wholesale, we also cannot fold our arms and watch as the damage to the lives of our people and the environment continues unabated.
“Some of the environmental problems arising from ASM operations are: lead poisoning, mercury pollution, land/soil degradation, deforestation, poor sanitation, degradation of river banks, and heavy metals pollution.
“Moreover, the use of inappropriate mining methods and unwholesome mineral ore processing techniques impact dangerously on public health as they expose the general populace to heavy metal pollution and outbreak of infectious diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and drug abuse. ”
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Abdulkadir Muazu stated that the government is working to ensure a robust Artisanal sector in the country.
He said, “Amidst the difficult regulatory challenges, government is assiduously working to enthrone a vibrant and robust ASM sector in Nigeria. This forum is therefore germane to our effort to properly organize the ASM such that: miners can earn decent living; communities can benefit from exploitation of mineral resources in their domains without bearing huge external costs; and government can earn corresponding revenues from the sector. I will therefore urge every participant to commit every effort towards ensuring that the purpose of this event is accomplished.”