News / Africa

Nigerian Gold Miners Seek the Right to Mine

Nigerian Gold Miners Seek the Right to Minei
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Heather Murdock
October 19, 2012 12:00 AM
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. Heather Murdock has more.
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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid