We Must Ensure Safer Mining Practices – Osinbajo

The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has called on miners in the country to comply with the regulations on safer mining to ensure safety of lives and environment. He made this call at the on-going 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning Associated with Artisanal Mining in Nigeria, with Special Focus on Prevention, holding in the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja.

Osinbajo hailed the convening of the conference as he believed that the outcome would provide multi sector inter-disciplinary national strategies to prevent future lead poisoning outbreaks caused by artisanal Gold Mining as well as the re-contamination of previously remediated sites. “Artisanal mining and the life to enjoy the wealth on it, is possible if we put in place the proper preventive measures and provide the right equipment”, he emphasized.

The Vice President noted that Gold mining in the country is clearly dominated by artisanal miners using rudimentary mining methods and crude processing techniques. The obvious consequence according to him is the exposure of miners, the environment and local communities to serious dangers.

 

In his keynote address, the Honourable Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Abubakar Bawa Bwari said it is important to note that the conference would be focused on developing preventive governance framework for lead poisoning, since treatment and environmental remediation are very expensive and unsustainable. He commended Doctors Without Boarders, MSF, for midwifing the conference and for the great work they have done in combating lead poisoning in country.

 

“The critical lesson we must learn is that no matter the scope of remediation and treatment, there will always be some re-contamination, there will always be children who do not respond to treatment, and there will always be people willing to defy the dangers of mining gold using unsafe practices,” he noted. He maintained that the only effective long-term solution in ending further lead exposure is through behavioural change, and the use of appropriate and economically feasible technologies.

 

The Minister said that the ministry is pursuing with vigour formalisation exercise that groups artisanal miners into licensed cooperatives and supports them with working tools and training on the use of safer mining and processing methods.

 

This according to him is in addition to the continuous monitoring of Artisanal Small Scale Miners (ASM) gold mining activities for the purpose of monitoring lead and other heavy metals level in land, air and water in order to prevent lead and other heavy metal contamination of the environment.

 

He acknowledged the pioneering works of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organisation,as well as the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Federal Ministry of Environment in the battle to reclaim Nigerian children and environment from the scourge of lead poisoning.

 

The Honourable Minister of State of Environment, Hon. Ibrahim Usman Jibril represented by the Director, Pollution Control, Mr. Charles Ikeah,in his goodwill message said the conference is very crucial in charting the way forward with respect to Artisanal Gold Miners, he however stressed the need to build on past efforts to avoid duplication and wastage of resources.

He pledged his Ministry’s support of all actions aimed at preventing lead and other heavy metals contamination of the environment and associated health risks and their wiliness to work with all stakeholders in achieving our objectives.

The Head of Mission, Nigeria MSF- Holland-Conference and Local Organising Committee Co-Chair (Doctors without Borders), Mr. Philip Aruna in his welcome remarks noted that collaborations with the government and people of Nigeria has shown positive outcomes.

Mr. Aruna said they are hopeful that deliberations during the conference would bring about the roadmap towards achieving sustainable result in preventing lead poisoning as he stressed the need for collaborations among government agencies and stakeholders in achieving the conference objectives.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Abdulkadri Mu’azu said reactive response to outbreaks of lead poisoning is not sustainable due to the enormous resources required to undertake environmental remediation, and chelation therapy of affected persons.

While, the governments and development partners continue with remediation and treatment efforts of affected areas and affected persons, the realistic national strategy according to the Permanent Secretary is developing a National Programme on the Prevention of Lead Poisoning, “a sustainable plan that will focus on developing safer mining techniques for artisanal miners, environmental standards and national surveillance on lead poisoning.

“The conference is aimed at developing a sustainable preventive framework on lead poisoning for artisanal and Small Scale Miners as a national strategy for investing in our people, protecting their health and also making the mining sector frontier for the diversification of our economy,” he reiterated.

 

Idowu Jokpeyibo

For: Director Press