Gold is a precious metal and it is said to be the 3rd most valued metal after platinum and palladium. Gold mining in Nigeria can be traced back to 1913 but the search for this precious metal experienced a decline in early 1930.
Gold Mining in Nigeria: Overview & Prospects
Eventually, gold mining resumed in the 1960s, but rapid development did not happen and it was further stalled by the Civil war between 1967 and 1970. But in the 1980s, there was a rebirth of precious metal mining as a result of the efforts of the Nigerian Mining Corporation (NMC). Unfortunately, this period did not last long, because the NMC was poorly funded.
Generally, mining in Nigeria hasn’t developed much due to the indifference of the government authorities and the concentration of government efforts on the oil industry.
Currently, gold can be found in places like the Iperindo in Osun State and other areas near Maru particularly Gurmana, Tsohon Birnin Gwari-Kwaga, Malele, Anka, Okolom-Dogondaji, and Bin Yauri. The other Nigerian states that have gold deposits include Abuja, Abia, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Osun, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi, Oyo State, Kogi, Zamfara, and Kaduna.
The Problems of Gold Mining in Nigeria
The major problem in the development of the gold industry is the lack of information on the location of the precious metal. And the government does not have all the necessary data on the current gold mining by small companies and since most individual miners hardly keep an honest record of the mined mineral. Consequently, the government has been left with a lot of work on licensing and accounting for gold production.
One of the drawbacks of gold mining is its negative effect on the natural environment. For example, gold mining activities in tropical forests are increasingly causing deforestation along rivers and in remote areas rich in biodiversity. Other gold mining impacts, particularly in aquatic systems with residual cyanide or mercury (used in the recovery of gold from ore), can be highly toxic to people and wildlife even at relatively low concentrations
In 2018, a team from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development embarked on a three-day tour of gold mines of various communities in the Ijesha part of Osun State.
The team interacted with farmers, hunters and the local miners who spoke about their challenges in the midst of the abundant wealth. Also, leaders of various communities spoke on how the activities of local miners have made farming, hunting and other agricultural activities difficult, the miners also painted gory pictures of how many of them were injured or died as a result of their archaic method of exploration.
The Ministry through its Safer Mining Project was able to inspect, train and reward stakeholders in the gold deposit communities. According to the Ministry, the project was aimed at achieving three things; protect individuals, protect the environment as well as encourage local miners to practice safer mining.
One of the challenges the gold mining industry has faced over the years is the menace of opportunists that emerge from the blues to start looking for gold. With the recent interest of the Federal Government in the industry, it is expected that the economic potential of the sector will be better harnessed.
The Federal Government also expects small-scale miners to help prevent illegal miners from entering into various reserves as well as protecting the environment. These miners can also encourage those carrying out mining activities to get a license or be registered under an agent.
Basically, there are two types of mining. There is the one that is harmful while the other is harmless. The harmful mining endangers the lives of miners and dilapidates the environment. On the other hand, harmless mining leads to the safety of miners, sustainability of environment and generation of revenue to the economy. In harmful mining, everybody loses; the miner, the community and the country but in harmless mining, it is a win-win situation for all the stakeholders.
Over the years, there have been metal poisoning related to harmful mining which is the reason why the government is sensitizing the public on the effect of harmful mining. It would be recalled that there has been an increase in the rate of heavy lead and mercury poisoning associated with gold mining, especially in Zamfara State, which led to the death of about 400 children. Although the government was able to intervene promptly to control the situation and give adequate treatment to people affected, the need to prevent future occurrences led to the design the Safe Mining Project, to sensitize and raise the level of awareness among local miners.
Some of the basic precautions that must be taken during gold mining activities include ensuring that the miner’s work clothes are cleaned very well. Miners should also bathe thoroughly and change into clean clothing before leaving the job site. In addition, soiled clothing should be stored in containers and must be washed after use. It is important that miners don’t keep work and street clothing in the same locker. And there’s the need to keep food in any place where it can be contaminated with mercury.
Because of lack of information, sometimes miners dig without wearing protective clothing, this is wrong and it is also essential that miners avoid the use of chemicals such as mercury and cyanide in their mining activities in order not to expose themselves to grave health issues and pollution of the rivers as well as the flora and fauna.
Poor mining activities could lead to serious health conditions such as infertility, severe cough, itching, and can also damage internal organs like the kidneys and the liver.
Generally, operating in a safer environment would boost the productivity of the miners, which in turn would lead to better revenue. Miners should always put on helmet, goggles, face mask, hand gloves, overall, and boots. It is also important that the miner covers up every hole dug while searching for gold. And if the miner diverts a river to another place while digging, it is necessary that the miner returns it back to its normal course after completing the mining activities.