News / Africa

    Nigerian Gold Miners Seek the Right to Mine

    Heather Murdock
    There is literally gold in the ground under and around many villages in Zamfara State, in northern Nigeria.  And since the price of gold has spiked, many local people have been digging without a license.  Government officials blame their operations for a massive lead poisoning outbreak.  But activists say punishing miners would make the health crisis worse. 

    Gold mining in this part of northern Nigeria is not glamorous.  But these men say it’s more dignified than extreme poverty, which used to be the norm around here.  
     
    Sani Bila heads a local mining association.  As he perches on a pile of rocks laced with gold, he says nowadays business is booming.  
     
    “We used to sell a gram of gold for 1,000 or 1,500 Naira ($6-$9).  But now we sell one gram for 5,000 ($30),” Bila said.
     
    Other miners say success is coupled with fear, as the government continues to call their operations illegal.  
     
    At a news conference in the capital, Abuja, State Minister of Health Muhammad Ali Pate says a lot of small-scale mining is illegal because it is dangerous.  He blames the small operations for the lead poisoning outbreak that has crippled the Zamfara region and killed hundreds of children.
     
    “People do illegal mining and bring their mining products home and process it.  Inadvertently they poison their environment with lead which ends up in their children,” Pate said.  
     
    Pate says the lead poisoning is caused by dust emitted as gold is processed.  But activists say the threat of mining bans only aggravates the crisis.
     
    Ivan Gayton, of Doctors Without Borders, says miners don’t invest in safety measures because  their incomes could disappear at any time.
     
    “As long as you don’t have legal title to what you are doing of course you can’t invest in better and safer techniques.  You have to go for the short-term gain.  You go for the cheapest way to do it possible,” Gayton said.
     
    Gayton says small-scale mining will continue, deep in the forest, legal or not.  And if it’s a crime, he says, miners may not seek help if their children are poisoned by lead.
     
    When asked if their operation is legal, these miners are silent.  Hassan Haruna, the secretary of their mining association pushes through the crowd to respond:
     
    “We don’t know those who own the mine here.  We are doing it, let me tell you, illegally.  Henceforth we don’t have any single paper to go and mine.  But they told us to form an organization and we did that,” Haruna said.
     
    To mine legally, they not only need to stave off a ban, they also need to buy the rights to their mines.  A 2007 law gave all mineral rights to the federal government and mining leaders say they are trying to organize so they can buy titles before international corporations move in.
     
    These men say they fear neither bans nor licensing laws and they will continue to work in peace.  But before they would allow a camera on site they insisted that their exact location be kept a secret.

    You May Like

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Will New Russian Force Be 'Putin’s Personal Army'?

    With broad powers to control riots, suppress dissent, National Guard may be aimed at sending a message to West as much as keeping peace at home

    Foreign Media in Pyongyang Barred From North Korean Party Congress

    Hundreds of international journalists invited to cover historic party meeting barred from entering actual event

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora