Nigeria is a country that is blessed with a lot of natural resources, both in hydrocarbons and in solid minerals. Nigeria has large reserves of petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, tin, limestone, lead, niobium, zinc, and gold. But at the same time, it is plagued by a high level of illegal mining activities across the country. This post is about the illegal gold mining in Nigeria and its influence on the economy and citizens of the country.
Nigeria has most of its gold deposits in the Northern parts of the country. Deposits of gold in Nigeria are more prominent near Anka, Maru, Gurmana, Bin Yauri, Tsohon Birnin Gwari-Kwaga, Okolom-Dogondaji, and also near Iperindo in Osun State. Gold is not so dominant in Nigeria.
Gold production began in Nigeria in 1913 and reached its peak in the 1930s. When the Second World War began, there was a decline in the production because the mines were abandoned by the colonial companies. In the early 1980s, the Nigeria Mining Corporation (NMC) was established to explore for gold and other solid minerals. However, gold mining operations in Nigeria by the NMC was a failure. The first reason is due to lack of funding from the government. The second reason, the focus of the government was on easy profits from oil production. The government of Nigeria had an indifferent attitude towards mining of solid materials. Since then, there has not been large scale gold mining production in Nigeria. Only small scale mining by local artisans. Recently, mining licenses were awarded only to two companies in Nigeria.
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However, because of the neglect of the mining industry by the government, there is a high level of illegal mining in the country. Most of the minings in Nigeria are done illegally. Some of the states that have experienced a high level of illegal gold mining in the country include Zamfara State and Kogi State. These illegal mining of gold in Nigeria are usually carried out mostly by local artisans, illegal mine traders from neighbouring countries and some South Asian countries, most especially China. A lot of these illegal gold mines located in many parts of the north have gone unchecked by the government. This level of illegal gold mining in Nigeria continues to pose different threats to the economy and the citizens.
Effect of illegal gold mining on the economy
Although solid minerals is not a major source of funding for the Nigerian economy, high level of illegal mining activities has led to a loss of almost 1.54 Billion USD annually. At a time when oil revenues have gone down, this makes things even worse. A huge amount of money is daily unaccounted for because of the gold that is being sold under the radar. The illegal mine traders through the help of locals and others involved in mining without licences or mining leases are able to avoid tax and dues meant to go into the government revenues.
According to the Minister of Solid Mineral Development, Kayode Fayemi, about one hundred kilograms of gold are being exported out of the country daily without any record. The estimated average price of one ounce of gold in the international market is 1,200 USD. One kilogram of gold is equivalent to 35.27 ounces by international conversion standards. By this calculations, 4,232,400 USD daily and 1,544,826,000 USD annually are unaccounted.
Effect of illegal gold mining on the citizens
Illegal mining is a concern especially for people in areas where the gold mines are located. Illegal mining activities have led to series of environmental and health implications. Environmental implications include the destruction of farmlands and fishing habitats by acid drainages, polluted water sources, acid rain from flares and mine holes. All these have led to the distortion of the livelihood of many agrarian communities in these areas. Also, trenches dug by these illegal gold miners are usually abandoned when they are through with mining. These trenches then easily become dangerous spots and locations for series of devastating gully erosions.
Also, there are health implications on the citizens as it was once reported in some communities in Zamfara State some years ago. Most of the gold mines dug were contaminated with impurities. The gold ash was mixed with lead deposits and some of the members of these communities came in contact with them. This led to a series of symptoms of stomach pain and vomiting among children. The deaths were attributed to spirits and other theories. But experts later discovered they were due to poisoning by lead. Other health implications include long-term health problems such as behavioural and learning problems and brain damage.
From the studies carried out, it has been reported that there is a high level of women and children involved in illegal gold mining activities in Nigeria. A lot of children drop out of school because of the money they are paid by illegal gold mine traders and they end up as victims of child labour.
Nigeria is blessed with a lot of commercial deposits of gold and other solid minerals in more than five hundred locations across different states. If Nigeria can tackle illegal mining and harness the mineral sector, its revenue will compete with the oil and gas sector. Even the reliance on oil profits will be reduced.