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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid