Zamfara loses over N62 billion annually to illegal mining in the two local government areas of Anka and Bukkuyum, says the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Prof. Abdulsalam Nasidi, the Project Director of Centre,disclosed this on Friday in Gusau while presenting a paper titled “Lead Poisoning: Zamfara Experience''.
The lecture was organised to mark the commencement of the Medical Week of the state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).
He explained that the death of underage children was traced to lead poisoning resulting from illegal mining activities.
According to him, this was the discovery of a team of experts from the centre, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Zamfara state Ministry of Health and `Medecins Sans Frontieres', an international NGO.
He said that an estimated 10 tonnes of gold was dug annually, while women, many of whom were nursing mothers, were seen carrying their babies to the mining sites and exposing themselves and the children to lead poisoning, resulting to early deaths.
Between 2010 to 2011, more than 400 children under five years lost their lives as a result of lead poisoning, he said.
He said that toward the end of last year, illegal mining activities resumed in the affected areas with many residents using fine lead contaminated powder as cosmetic.
He further said that the team of experts also realised that people in the affected areas, drank lead contaminated water from wells and streams.
“Only borehole water is seen as safe and there were no boreholes sunk.''
The director said that if the state and Federal Governments could harness and invest in the gold deposits in the area, Zamfara would be the richest state in the federation.
He, therefore, advised the state government to invest in controlled mining, agriculture and education.
NAN reports that the acting governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala, who attended the event, expressed the government’s preparedness to partner with organisations toward finding lasting solution to the lead-induced infections in the state.
NAN also reports that the state’s annual budget usually falls between N65 billion and N68 billion, which is a little above what is generated by the illegal miner’s untaxed benefits.