The President of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society(NMGS)and Chairman, Mining Implementation and Strategic Team(MIST) Professor Olugbenga Okunlola has said Nigeria has over 1000 unregulated mining sites, also known as illegal mines.
This is even as he observed that “illegal mining has persisted because something that has persisted over the years and is prevalent all over the country, will be a bit difficult to stop overnight”
According to the Prof. “We have well over 1000 illegal mining sites in these country and I am even being conservative, in a particular state alone, you can have 200 illegal mining sites
He however was optimistic that the scourge was reducing as he said “I know of a surety that in the last two years it has reduced. We want to commend those who took the initiative that we advised them to get the mines police back and they are doing it now through the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), the police are also getting involved, but also this is a democracy and you cannot just bulldoze them into stopping. So we also have to do it in such a way that is humane”
Speaking on government efforts to curb the menace, he said “Recently the government acquired about 38 vehicles which has never happened before. So efforts should be made to strengthen them in terms of logistics, when they are over the place and they see that there are efforts to stop this, it will reduce”
He said “The laws are there, the mining laws are there, so also the structure has to be put in place, institutions involved in curbing it has to be strengthened, the Security agencies also have to be trained and educated, so it has to be integrated.
He added that informal miners should also be organised into cooperatives, to help provide , extension services to them. But I think the scourge is reducing, at least many of them will tell you they are under one licence or the other, so the important thing is to properly monitor, strengthen the institutions, get more vehicles and more funds and then we will see results.
But what really ought to be put in place is to strengthen the institutions that should be involved such as the mines inspectorate. We cannot play with that.
Recalling how Nigerian got into illegal mining in the first instance, he said Let us look at where we got it wrong. When there was mining in the past, there was no illegal mining because it was structured, then we had some kind of not too effective policy somersaults beginning with the indigenization decree, because we had expatriates who were involved in mining with the Africans, but at that time, the African were not really matured enough in terms of technical expertise, financial muscle so when they left there was a hiatus and so instead of the momentum being maintained, there was a lacuna, so the artisanal/illegal mining took over.
At that time, we had a good structure, the mines police were there, the mines division were well mobilized in terms of logistics but at some point we missed it and proper systematic exploration stopped in Nigeria, and mining went moribund
I will tell you that today despite the effort of the government and I will commend them, there is still no major mine in Nigeria, except those quarrying lime-stones and granites, but when talking about under-ground mines or main mines, there are none, so it left room for people who are just scavenging.
And also because Nigeria is so vast, and because we have these mineral resources, especially the low hanging ones all over the country, it persisted. You need to realise that even sand is mining