• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Mines collapse: Danger to the environment and host communities

Mines collapse: Danger to the environment and host communities

The recent collapse of a mining site in Galadima Kogo, Shiroro Local Government Area (LGA) of Niger State, has again raised the need for government at all levels to revisit the issues of abandoned mining sites and ensure proper enforcement of policies as a means to curtail environmental disasters while protecting host community rights. Ruth Tene Natsa writes…

As recently as Tuesday, June 4, 2024, a video emerged showing a collapsed mining site with over 30 people allegedly trapped inside as well as one recorded death. The mining site is located at Galadima Kogo, in Shiroro Local Government Area (LGA) of Niger State.

Meanwhile, facts released following the visits of top government officials in the state attributed the disaster to the flagrant disobedience to the order issued by the state government a few months ago directing all miners to suspend their activities and vacate the sites until further notice.

Read also: Mining operations: Oyo Gov mandates LG chairmen to be alert, responsive

Addressing journalists shortly after an inspection tour of the collapsed site, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Alhaji Yunusa Mohammed Nahauni, said there was a lack of compliance and synergy between the mining company’s management director and the district head as they have been operating even after the government ordered them to vacate the site.

Sadly, collapsed mining sites are a recurrent situation that governments at all levels must take decisive action to tackle because of the inherent dangers associated with general mining activities.

Findings show that several factors account for mine collapse, particularly in countries such as Nigeria, which has a vast trove of solid minerals and is an attractive mining country housing a huge number of both legal and illegal miners.

The most prominent reasons for the reoccurring mine collapse in Nigeria include the government’s discovery of oil and the diversion from solid minerals. The effect of this diversion is that several mining sites were abandoned and left unremediated. Unremediated or abandoned mining sites are a common sight in almost every host community in Nigeria.

The unfortunate abandonment gave rise to the activities of illegal miners, as many of them found their way to the abandoned mine sites to continue from where the government and other foreign mining companies left off. This further spread and endangered host communities.

In recent times and with the advent of climate-related issues, the illegal activities of illegal miners have left host communities more prone to flooding and other natural disasters. In such communities, open mining pits, devastated environments, and polluted water sources, among several other abnormalities, are common sights.

It is no longer news that mining in the 1960s was one of Nigeria’s economic mainstays, with states witnessing various mining activities and ultimately leaving abandoned mining sites when oil was discovered and the sector was abandoned.

States like Enugu have a couple of abandoned mining sites inside Iva Valley, a suburb in Enugu state, where Onyeama, Ribadu, and Iva, three of the coal mines that contributed to the rapid development of the state, still exist.

Jos witnessed lots of tin mining, and to date, open pits and hidden mines remain a common sight in the ancient city, while gold mining in states such as Zamfara, Osun, Ekiti, Niger, and Nassarawa, which are more recent and continue to leave devastation, results in the wake of mining activities in the communities where they happen.

 “The most prominent reasons for the reoccurring mine collapse in Nigeria include the government’s discovery of oil and the diversion from solid minerals.”

Interestingly, with the energy transition and global shift from fossil fuels, which Nigeria is fully driving, there is no doubt that unless these challenges are tackled, Nigeria will continue to suffer mine collapse, devastated environments and communities, and polluted waters, amongst several others.

Meanwhile, as a means to address the incessant activities of illegal miners across Nigeria, the federal government, through the minister of solid minerals development, Dele Alake, has informed that illicit miners across the nation have a 30-day grace to join artisanal cooperatives.

In his presentation during the 1-year ministerial briefing of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s one year in office, the minister said at the last count, 152 cooperatives had been formed across the country in line with the minister’s non-kinetic approach to curbing illegal miners.

Read also: FG mobilises responders to Niger collapsed mining site

There is no denying that, unless illegal mining is brought to a complete stop, it will continue to wreak havoc on not just mining environments but also host communities.

It is to be recalled that between 2009 and 2010, records by Doctors Without Borders showed that over 400 people (mostly children) had died as a result of illegal mining activities in Zamfara. This was besides the fact that the illegal mining devastated the environment and polluted their water source. Today, the whole state remains one of the most devastated mining states.

Available records also revealed that between April and May 2015, 28 children in Kawo and Magiro, two remote villages in Niger State, mysteriously died days after suffering symptoms of convulsions, insomnia, and hallucinations, all linked to exposure to lead poisoning.

Meanwhile, reacting to the menace of mine collapse in Nigeria, Faith Nwadishi, the executive director at the Centre for Transparency Advocacy, has blamed mine collapse on several factors, even as she calls for stricter regulations.

She opined that “mine collapse in Nigeria has become a major concern, noting that these collapses occur due to inadequate safety regulations, a lack of enforcement, illegal mining activities, disregard for environmental concerns, a lack of adequate supervision by relevant government agencies, and a multitude of other issues.”

She urged that the government intervene by implementing stricter regulations, ensuring proper environmental assessments, and following through with the recommendations strictly.

“Also, the government can invest in training and equipment for miners, enforce penalties for illegal mining, and improve monitoring and inspection processes. Additionally, promoting responsible mining practices and providing support for sustainable mining operations could help mitigate the risk of collapse,” she added.