The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has said that 90 per cent of Nigeria’s mining sector is characterised by artisanal miners, using dangerous chemicals which emit mercury into the environment and causing poisoning.
An environmental expert with UNIDO, Mr Oluyomi Banjo, disclosed this during a validation workshop for the Project Preparatory Phase of the GEF PlanetGOLD in Nigeria themed, “Enhancing Formalisation And Mercuryfree Gold In Nigeria.”
He said though gold is one of the seven strategic minerals as reflected in Nigeria’s Mining and Minerals Roadmap, its mining is done in the most primitive ways.
He said, “over 90% of Nigeria’s mining sector is characterised by artisanal and small-scale mining and because of the rudimentary ways of carrying out mining and mineral processing activities, there are lots of indiscriminate use of chemicals and its exposure in and around mining sites and communities.
“Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is responsible for 37% of the
anthropogenic emission and releases of Mercury into the environment and this makes it the largest source of anthropogenic source of Mercury globally.”
He cited the example of lead poisoning in Zamfara and Niger States which was also complicated by the artisanal miners taking Lead containing ores to their homes to amalgamate with Mercury.
He, therefore, restated the support of UNIDO to Nigeria in ensuring that the environment is protected, lives are preserved and the mining sector is sustainably developed and run.
The director, Department of Pollution Control & Environmental Health, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr Charles Ikeah, in his remarks commended UNIDO for bringing experts together from the government, academia, NGOs and miners association to establish a relevant financial structures needed to help artisanal miners to increase productivity.
He said the GEF project was timely in line with government’s priority to protect human lives and the environment.
Ikeah added that the project was part of efforts to effectively implement the provisions of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and strategically position the mining sector for economic growth and sustainable development.
“Today’s workshop is therefore,crucial in providing a platform to finalise the project document before submission to the GEF for final approval to commence the project,” he added.
For his part, Kebbi State Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Hon. Hayatudeen Bawa, in a goodwill message commended the move to eliminate mercury which he said has been causing alot of damages in the State.
He said Kebbi State alone has about 350 cooperatives of artisanal miners with not less than 20 persons each.