The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has inaugurated a panel of inquiry to ascertain the circumstances that led to the death of nine illegal miners at a collapsed mine pit at Dogon Daji village in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
The panel headed by the Deputy Director, Mines Inspectorate Department of the ministry, Mr. Dauda Awojobi, apart from investigating the actual cause of the accident and the level of compliance with mining laws, is expected to come up with recommendations that would prevent future occurrences within seven days from Wednesday evening when it was inaugurated.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Musa Sada, while inaugurating the panel yesterday in Abuja, expressed regret over the loss of lives in the accident, despite government's efforts to forestall such occurrences in the sector.
He stated that it was sad Zamfara State had assumed the haven where illegal mining activities have continued to result in the loss of lives of miners.
He said prior to the death of the illegal miners on October 23, 2012, the ministry received a report of illegal mining activities in the area and consequently cordoned off the area to prevent any kind of disaster.
The minister disclosed that officials of the ministry in collaboration with plain clothes policemen and the village head had carried out surveillance of the area on a daily basis in an attempt to dislodge illegal miners in the area.
According to Sada, the nine miners who were prospecting for gold in an area belonging to Sasco Nigeria Ltd. Lost their lives when the walls of the pit in which they were digging caved in and cover them. He said but for one of them that was lucky not to have been covered by the overburden it would have been a case of missing persons as no one would have known of what happened.
In an acceptance speech, the Chairman of the committee represented by the Director, Mines Inspectorate, Mr. Idris Umar, who said mining risk was more severe and complicated where illegal activities thrive, lamented that Zamfara State which is known to be highly endowed with various types of mineral resources, is becoming popular in mining for the wrong reasons in recent times.
"The memory of the lead poisoning menace is still fresh in our minds and while the ministry is tackling this challenge, we are now confronted with yet another mines mishap in the state," he said.
The terms of reference of the panel include assessment of the condition of the mine and nature of its operation; assessment of the general level of illegal mining activities in Zamfara State; determine the remote cause of the accident and determine whether the mine is operated under a mineral title and if so whether the title holder, its agent or any other person(s) are guilty of negligence or took all reasonable and proper precautions to prevent the accident.