Abakaliki — The Ebonyi State Government in collaboration with security agencies yesterday arrested four Chinese and 16 persons for an alleged illegal mining at Echara Unuphu, Abakaliki Local Government Area of the state.
Addressing journalists at the mining site, Senior Special Adviser to Governor Dave Umahi on Internal Security, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala, expressed shock over the activities of the miners which he said have created environmental problem to the state.
The mining site, according to a source, has been operational for more than 10 years with about five contractors engaged for various stages of works.
"The future of this state is at stake because of the activities of these illegal miners. I have the privileged of being in China, and Chinese don't temper with their environment no matter what the problem may be. With the type of problem created here in the name of mining, it is possible that this tunnel they created must have passed to underground to the Government House and other places in the state.
"So, what do we expect? A total collapse! Another road might be on the ground in the name of mining, and there is no society or environment or state that this type of thing is seen. It is not as if they pay tax and what type of tax would even be more important than the future of our children and the entire people of the state? We will make sure that we fish out all these people. As the SSA on internal security, this is the first time I have seen this. It is threat to our environment," he said.
On her part, Special Adviser to the Governor on Solid Mineral Development, Mrs. Nwakaego Nworie, said she had visited the site with geological experts, and that the miners only allowed them to see the premises and prevented them from going round the whole site.
"I became very curious and insisted that I must see the whole site. I moved down inside the site. I got to a place where a soldier prevented me and threatened to shoot me if I move beyond him. It was that day that I saw the tunnel even though I was prevented from going closer to it.
One of the suspects, Nnamdi Peter, who hails from Enugu, said he has worked in the mining tunnel for three months.
"In the first place, I didn't know this is illegal. If I knew, I wouldn't have been working here. The company should have carried out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with NESRA before embarking on this type of mining," he said.