BY PATRICK OCHOGA,
Since the invasion of the gold mine sites in Dangbala, the people have been living in fear over the possible breakdown of law and order in the area as the illegal miners resort to all illicit activities to cart away the mineral.
In fact, the unhealthy rivalry among the illegal miners has forced the people to call for immediate action by the federal and state authorities to ensure that it does not snowball into the armed violence as being witnessed in Zamfara State where large scale illegal gold mining has led to banditry.
In the midst of this illicit trade, there is deep poverty and lack of infrastructure in the community. Apart from the narrow tarred road leading to the community which the illegal miners use to cart away gold worth millions of naira, there is no other functioning public facility.
During a visit to the gold sites, some of the operators blamed improper coordination of the sector by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development for the squabble over the gold mine fields. They alleged connivance with some government officials who profit from the activities of the illegal miners.
However, stakeholders and investors asked the ministry of mines and steel to wake up to its responsibility and issue licenses to registered miners who have shown interest in exploration of solid mineral resources in the community.
A leader in the neighbouring community and the Oba of Ewan, Chief Daudu Clement, who was part of a meeting between the Dangbala community and a firm that has applied for consent in 2014 explained that the discovery of gold in large quantity was behind the crisis between the land owners and prospecting firms, adding that even the firm that had been given consent and had obtained licenses are being asked to apply for fresh consent.
According to him, “What is happening is this, in 2018, we discovered that there is gold in that area apart from the other mineral deposits and when it was made known, the community started saying that the consent we have was fraudulently signed.”
“They want us to obtain a fresh consent. It was later that we discovered that the Onyike and Oka kindred who owned the land had chieftaincy issues. In one of their meetings, they suspected that we were the one sponsoring the other kindred against them but there was nothing like that.
“In fact, it is an abomination to take side since we are from the same community because of that they asked us to come for another fresh consent. The question now is what happened to our license which has not expired? We even agreed to embark on community development but all of a sudden some boys took over and started mining at the same site given to us”.
“We reported the matter to the police and 11 persons were arrested last year but because of the COVID-19 pandemic they were all granted bail.
“The zonal mining officer intervened that he was going to bring the leader of the group that was arrested. A meeting was fixed and some palace elders were there including one Collins and John Paul. They alleged that our consent was fraudulently signed and that the people who signed it were not from Dangbala which was not true”.
“However, at the end of the day, those interested in carrying out mining activities were asked to come and work with us as the genuine people with license but they claimed that they have license to mine gold but we know that the ministry cannot make the mistake of giving one particular area to two different miners.
“The coordinate of the area was taken and we discovered that they don’t any area near where our firm’s deposit is located rather they choose to mine the deposit already allocated to another mining firm,” he said.
Daudu, however, expressed delight that a meeting held between community leaders and stakeholders addressed key issues that would be beneficial to the two communities and miners in the area.
A representative of one of the prospecting firms for Macana Nigeria Limited, Fatai Jimoh, lamented that the illegal activities of miners in Dangbala had overwhelmed those licensed to carry our exploration.
“Their illegal activities have overwhelmed us and they appear stronger than everybody. They graduated from the use of hand and shovel to excavators and washing machines into our exploration licence site which is contrary to the stipulated mining act”.
“Agreed that some of them were able to get licence for mining gold but they got it on an area where there is no gold, what they have is a fake license to confuse and hoodwink men of civil defence or any police they come across while they keep terrorising us on our existing exploration license, we reported the matter to ministry of mines, mining cadastral office Abuja”.
“But recently, there seems to be an intervention from an unknown end. As at the beginning of this month there was a stop work order and over 5,000 illegal miners have deserted the area. We just hope they don’t come back again”.
“These miners are robbing the federal Republic of Nigeria of returns, they don’t pay royalty or annual service fee whatsoever and they keep on mining without any designs or reclamation plan. They have to be stopped if not the essence of getting permit and servicing such permit will be defeated when people without permit are having their way”.
“The ministry of mines and steel development should come out with strong terms and they should free themselves of any possibility of trying to support any miners who don’t have the required licenses , the mining cadastral office should do more than they are doing and set up committees that will go into this area”.
“The civil defense men need to learn more and have some knowledge on how to identify a fake mining license. What I mean by fake license is that every surface of the earth has different longitude and latitude so if somebody said he has a license he has to work over an area where his longitude and latitude is stipulated.
But the Zonal Mining Officer, (ZMO), Abdulkadiri Adamu, when contacted on the activities of illegal miners in the state said those carrying illegal mining are community youth just as he absolved the ministry of any wrongdoing or aiding them.
“The truth is that they are some with genuine license over the place. There are about 5 firms with licenses. A license for limestone is not the same as a license for gold. I have advised anybody interested in mining gold to apply and obtained such license from the ministry in Abuja”