The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development on Friday concluded a three-day tour of gold mines at Ibodi, Ilesa, Osun State and training of hundreds of artisanal and small scale miners on personal safety and environmental protection.

Participants were taken through trainings on several aspects of health and environmental issues in mining.

Certificates were awarded to the miners after the training, while protective clothing and gadgets were also given to them for their safety.

The training came barely two months after government announced plans to commence a Gold Purchase Scheme aimed at increasing revenue accruable from the country’s abundant gold deposit, using Osun and Kebbi States as pilot for the project.

One of the trainers, a health and safety professional, Dr. Adebola Odunsi, said the Federal Government discovered that artisanal miners were engaging in practices, which exposed them and host communities with gold deposit to health and environmental hazards.

Odunsi said the Federal Government was determined to stop these harmful practices and promote safer mining, which would be beneficial to the miners, the people in their host communities and the nation at large.

He advised them against digging without wearing protective clothing, adding that they must stop the use of chemicals such as mercury and cyanide in their mining activities in order not to expose themselves to grave health issues and pollution of the rivers as well as the flora and fauna.

The medical expert said poor mining activities could lead to serious health conditions such as infertility, severe cough, itching, and can also damage internal organs like the kidneys and the liver.

“So you must do everything to protect yourself and to protect the environment,” Odunsi said.

He said operating in a safer environment would boost the productivity of the miners, which in turn would lead to better revenue.

He said: “We want you to start safer mining from now on.

“This will guarantee your wellbeing, it will prevent environmental pollution and the host communities and the nation will be better for it.

“Miner should always wear helmet, goggles, face mask, overall, hand gloves, and boots.

“You must wear these before you start digging and you must not wear them at home.

“Make sure you remove the protective clothing; take a bath and wear neat clothes back home after work.

“If you go back home with the dust from the site, you can cause trouble for yourself and the people in the community.

“You must also make sure that you cover up every hole you dug while searching for gold.

“If you divert a river to another place while digging, make sure up you return it back to its normal course after your activities.

“Bad mining activities cause breathing problem, cough, itching, infertility and can also damage internal organs like the kidneys and the liver.

“So you must do everything to protect yourself and to protect the environment.”

A former President, Nigerian Society of Mining Engineers, Olusegun Oladipo, at the training sites launded government’s initiative, stressing that there was the need to teach the over one million informal miners how to carry out their activities in such way that their activities would not further destroy the environment.

The Oloja of Ibodi, Oba Omisade Agboluaje, had earlier told the government delegation at a meeting with the people of Ibodi town that efforts must be made to always carry along the host communities before major mining activities commence in their environment.

Agboluaje said this would enable the host communities relate very well with miners, adding that this kind of relationship would be beneficial to all the parties involved.

He said: “We want to know the number of agents mining in our community and we have asked them to meet with our youths.

“We are not against the Yoruba and non Yourba people mining here but we want to know all of them so that there will be better relationship between us.”

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had while announcing government’s plans to commence a Gold Purchase Scheme last December said the project was aimed at increasing revenue accruable from the country’s abundant gold deposit.

The scheme, according to the Minister, includes training and equipping of artisanal miners, provision of extension services and off-take of all gold produced by participants in the scheme.

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