The Niger state government, Tuesday, declared its intentions to establish a mining city within the state making it the first of its kind in Nigeria.
The state governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello, while giving his speech at the second edition of the international conference on lead poisoning in Abuja, said the state’s plan to establish a mining city is near completion.
Niger state in 2015 was the second state to be plagued by lead poisoning in Nigeria as a result of unsafe mining practices. The poisoning first occurred in Zamfara state.
More than 2500 community members were exposed to the plaque and about 30 children died in Niger state. Within the state, two villages were remediated and treatment is still ongoing.
Mr. Sani-Bello also announced that the state has commenced the strengthening of its special purpose vehicle, Zuma Mineral Development Company, to meet global standards to facilitate the rapid development of the solid mineral sector of the State.
“The solid minerals sector is one key source of economic growth towards diversification of our sources of revenue earnings. The recently approved Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Paper (FSP) by the Federal Government emphasizes the place of solid minerals in the economic growth strategy of the country.
“This is why we have commenced the strengthening of the State’s special purpose vehicle, to meet global standards to facilitate the rapid development of the solid mineral sector of the State,” the Niger state governor said.
On the mining city, he said, “our plan to establish a mining city within the State is near completion, it will be the first of its kind in Nigeria. The city will be a comprehensive turn-keys solution that will include a processing centre, on site laboratory, trade and investment center, training center and mining supply store.
“The city will also be equipped to carry out exploratory services that will include geophysics services, geochemical sampling, resource estimation, reserve calculations, data interpretation and target generation”.
Other facilities he highlighted which would be in the city include a data room on the mineral deposits in the State, and a ready market for processed minerals.
He added that development would promote safer mining methods in the mineral sector.
While speaking on the development of preventive governance framework that would ensure safe mining practices in Nigeria, he said “it is important that we reinforce our determination to change the behavioural pattern of artisanal gold miners to understand the avoidable risks they put themselves and their families into using the unsafe mining practices”.
To prevent the outbreak of lead in any other part of the country, and develop steps that are proven to be strategic in saving the lives of people in mining communities, he shared his experience battling the plague in Niger state.
“The April 2015 severe lead poisoning outbreak in Unguwan Kawo and Unguwan Magiro of Shikira community in Rafi Local Government of Niger State was devastating and it taught us many lessons.
“Children and pregnant women were mostly affected because of their vulnerability. Since then, we have been working with partners in Niger State to ensure there is no recurrence of sum ugly tide.
“As a state richly endowed with an array of solid mineral deposits, we are aware of an exponentially increased risks associated with artisanal mining and processing of mineral resources in the State, therefore we will be delighted to share our experiences and learn new lesson in this conference.
“We understand that it will be impossible to stop artisanal gold mining altogether, considering the manpower shortage in the industry, it is only proper that we engage miners by showing them how they can benefit more by getting registered and using safer mining methods.
“Niger Sate has continuously engaged in enlightenment campaigns on mining. We have also ensured the training and retraining of miners and staff from the ministries of mineral resources, environment and health on a safer mining practices; and we have strengthened our resolve to always take steps that will check the threats to human life while maximizing the potential of this strategic sector to our economy
“The steps we took then paid off and today we are working closely with MSF on the sustainability of the successes we have recorded in containing the outbreak of mining related diseases in Niger state,” he said.
He added that the state was able to train staff on laboratory analysis and management of lead poisoning through the combined supports of different international agencies, including the Medecins San Frontires (Doctors Without Borders), the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, World health Organization, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program.
“We increased the number of staff at Magiro Health post in Rafi Local Government to support those on ground in containing the outbreak; and Kagara General Hospital in the local Government was integrated to serve as a treatment center for lead poisoning victims,” he said