The federal government has advocated for a safer mining environment and adequate personal safety as Nigeria aspire to further explore her huge mineral resources for greater benefit of her citizens.
This was practically demonstrated recently when a team from the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, organised a three-day tour of gold mines in various communities in Ilesha part of Osun State. The event was also packaged to include training of hundreds of artisanal and small-scale miners on personal safety and environmental protection. It attracted participants from Ibodi, Badaye, Epe, Iyere, Ijana, Igun, among other villages.
According to a safety professional, Dr. Adebola Odunsi , the training which was in two parts; fieldwork and stakeholders engagement forum, was put together by the government to sharpen the skills of the itinerant miners as well as giving them tips on how to protect themselves and the environment. The expert, who was also one of the facilitators at the training, disclosed that government has since discovered that artisanal miners were engaging in practices, which exposed them and the host communities with gold deposit to health and environmental hazards.
"The mission of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to push this initiative is to introduce hundreds of artisanal and small-scale miners scattered around towns and villages in Osun State, to modern ways of mining. It is also introduced to serve as a platform for stakeholders to speak on challenges they are facing as well as improving the economic and physical wellbeing of the host communities," he said.
He further added that government initiated the programme to take the local miners through basic modern techniques and importance of protective kits during mining activities to protect them and the environment.
While the training lasted, the miners were exposed to various health and environmental issues in mining. It also gave opportunities to stakeholders; the host communities and the miners to bond together discuss issues that are of mutual benefits to them and in the process deepened their relationship.
The highpoint of the event was the presentation of gifts, gadgets and certificates to participants. Aside certificates, miners and their supervisors were given protective items like; helmet, steel toe-boot, rain boots and hand gloves. Other items are; nose mask, reflective jacket and overall.
Meanwhile, for effective monitoring and supervision, three people, including a traditional ruler, Chief Sunday Ogunsiji, the regent of Epe; the patron of the Artisanal Miners Welfare Association, Chief Friday Israel Mmecha and one of the oldest miners in the state, Abubakar Aliyu, were presented with brand new motorcycles.
Earlier, Odunsi had pointed out that the federal government was determined to end hazardous practices in the bid to boost safer mining, which would help the miners, the communities and the nation's economy.
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."
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. This is very important. 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, Mr. Olusegun Oladipo, at the training sites, lauded 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.