The Minister of State, for Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Abubakar Bwari, says more than two millio` n people in Nigeria depend on illegal mining for their livelihood.
Bwari made this known at a two-day “First National Stakeholders’ Discourse on Opportunities and Challenges of Artisanal Mining in Nigeria’’ last Monday in Abuja.
According to him, most of the miners are poor and unemployed living in rural areas and employing crude methods and household implements to exploit these minerals which they sell to feed their families.
He said they were mostly found mining precious minerals like gold, silver, lead/zinc, sapphire, emerald, tourmaline, aquamarine, gypsum, barytes, silica sand, granite, sandstones, clay, and salt among others.
“We cannot afford to criminalise their activities and we cannot also fold our arms and watch as they damage the lives of our people and the environment,’’ he said.
He said some of the environmental problems which include lead poisoning, mercury pollution, deforestation, poor sanitation and heavy metals pollution among others were caused by Artisanal and Small Scale Mining in Nigeria (ASM).
Bwari said that the use of inappropriate mining methods and unwholesome mineral ore processing techniques impact dangerously on public health as they exposed people to heavy metal pollution and outbreak of infectious diseases.
He, however, said the forum was to address the myriad of challenges posed by illegal mining.
According to him, the ministry has made strenuous efforts to regulate ASM activities over the years.
The minister of state said that in the last three years, the ministry’s regulatory mechanisms had led to some measure of success.
“We are more than ever before determined to ensure better policing of artisanal miners through the newly constituted Mines Police.
“We have also increased the monitoring capacity of our Mine Inspectorate with the recent purchase of new vehicles.
“The formalisation policy of the ministry has also led to the registration of more artisanal miners into mining cooperatives”, he said.
Bwari said the ministry had trained more than 250 members of these cooperatives across the country.
He urged the participants to provide lasting solutions to the thorny issue of integrating artisanal miners into formal mining in Nigeria.
“As the theme of this conference clearly shows, there are great opportunities in the artisanal and small scale mining subsector which can lead to growth in the economy, while also enriching the lives of the miners themselves,’’ he said.
The minister of state also donated a Toyota Hilux to the executive of the Miners Association of Nigeria to aid the activities of the asFurthermore, “ASM also accounts for more than 80 per cent of global supply of gemstones, especially sapphire, emerald, tourmaline, rubelites, aquamarine, and topaz.
“More than 90 per cent of Nigeria’s mineral production comes from the artisanal miners and these miners use inappropriate methods and very rudimentary tools to exploit mineral deposits,’’ he said.
The Regional Director Band Country Representative for Nigeria and ECOWAS, Dr Jean Bakole, UNIDO, quoting the World Bank report said that 80 countries were involved in ASM practices and there were 100 million Artisanal miners globally.
Bakole, represented by Environmental expert with UNIDO, Mr Yemi Banjo, called for more support from mining stakeholders to holistically address ASM activities in Nigeria.
More Youths Engage In Artisanal Refining
As unemployment bites harder amidst rising cost of living, more youths in rural communities in Rivers State are now going into artisanal refining business to earn a living.
The Tide reliably gathered that some youths residing in Port Harcourt City were gradually moving to rural communities for bunkering business otherwise known as ‘kpo-fire’
Narrating his experience to The Tide, Mr Godwin Ibeneme who resides in Rumuekini in Akpor, said he was introduced into the kpor-fire business by his father.
Ibeneme, who hails from Ibaa/ Obelle area of Emohua Local Government Area, said his father compelled him to join other youths who were thriving in the business in the community.
“My father came to my house here in Rumuekini, and told me to come to the village, that other young men are making it through kpo-fire’ bunkering since I have lost my job.
“ I didn’t waste time to give it a trial, because I had really looked for what to do, since I lost my job at a fast-food company. Since then, I can tell you that I have been taking care of myself, unlike before when everything looked hopeless”, he explained.
The Tide also learnt that the kpo-fire’ business was currently thriving in Isiokpo axis of Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
A resident of the community who pleaded anonymity, told The Tide that there was a high level of discrimination in the business.
According to him, he decided to engage himself at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, to hustle for his daily bread, instead of staying idle.
The Tide recalls that the Federal Government had promised to build modular refineries in the Niger Delta region since 2019 as an alternative to illegal oil bunkering in the region as well as to create employment for the youth.
The Tide also reports that three years after the promise was made, nothing has been done in that regard.
Oyigbo Cassava Plant, Legacy Project -Akawor
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Amb. Desmond Akawor, says the cassava plant project, being executed by the Rivers State Government in Oyigbo is a legacy project that will generate huge employment for Rivers people.
He said the project was well thought out and would stand the test of time to tackle unemployment as well as ensure food availability in the state.
Akawor made the remarks during an interaction with journalists at the weekend in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the cassava plant which was supposed to be executed by the previous administrations, was initially planned to be a joint venture between the state government and some organisations, but that the other partners did not pay their counterpart funding.
“The steps taken by the Wike-led administration to bring this project to life without the counterpart funding is commendable, because of the huge economic benefits it will give to the state.
“Many people have also been employed at the construction sites of flyovers being executed by Julius Berger. Eighty percent of those working there are indigenes, while the company provides the expatriates”, he said.
The PDP chairman also hinted on the plans of the state government to privatise the Buguma fish farm and banana farm, among others, so as to make them more viable.
He said that the state government had not abandoned the projects initiated by the previous administration, but was thinking on what to do with them.
Akawor maintained that the employment of 5,000 persons into the civil service was still ongoing, saying the government is only taking time to ensure that indigenes of the state are employed.
PH Airport Resumes Skeletal International Flight Operations
Skeletal flight operations have resumed at the international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
This follows the lifting of the curfew that was imposed in the state by the Rivers State Government to check cases of insecurity in the state.
The Tide’s checks show that many of the airlines that operate international flights are yet to resume flight operations, even though the coast is clear for them to resume operations.
The Cronaux Airline, it was gathered, is the only airline at the moment that has fully resumed international flight.
Other airlines that operate at the international wing, like the Lufthansa Airline, Turkish Airline, and Ethiopian Airline are yet to resume operations.
The Acting Head of Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Kunle Akinbode, confirmed the resumption of international flight operations at the airport, last Friday, saying the international wing is now open for international airlines to operate.
He explained that the curfew that was imposed in the state delayed the resumption of international flights operations, even when issues of Covid-19 standard protocols had been addressed.
“Now that the curfew is over and the international wing is open for flight operations, it is left for each of the airlines to work out its own schedule for operations.
“It will not be the duty of the airport management to sort things out for them and know when to resume. I know that some have started. Lufthansa has said they will resume next month, August”, Akinbode said.
The Tide reports that the international wing of the Port Harcourt Airport had been shut since the Covid-19 lockdown, and did not reopen when other international airports in Lagos, Abuja and Kano among others reopened for international operations.
Stories by Corlins Walter
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