Lead poisoning: Govt declares progress in Zamfara safer mines project

Illegal mining results in lead poisoning29 April 2013, Sweetcrude, Abuja – In the aftermath of the lead poisoning that caused the deaths of hundreds of women and children in Zamfara State, the Federal Government has stated that remediation efforts and emphasis on safe mining are beginning to pay off.

Government has stressed that illegal mining and inappropriate mineral ore processing methods adopted by local miners in Abare, Dareta, Unguwar Yargalma, Bagega and some other villages in Zamfara State that led to lead poisoning emergency in the State.

The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and other Government agencies as well as some international agencies made concerted efforts to have the emergency situation brought under control.

In February 2013, funds were made available to the Ministry to execute the Safer Mining Programme in Zamfara State. The programme is crucial in ensuring that lead poisoning does not occur again in the state whilst the mining communities are assured of sustainable livelihood through safe mining operations.

In a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja, the Ministry said it has since commenced series of coordinated activities that will ultimately institutionalize safer mining procedure.

According to the statement, the Ministry has commenced the construction of Extension Services outposts in designated areas in Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas. The facilities will each be provided with functional water boreholes. The construction of the boreholes is ongoing at the outposts. The outposts will be fitted with all equipment necessary for on-the-site training of the local miners.

In addition, the Ministry has just concluded the formalization of informal miners in Zamfara State. This process involves identification of the mining artisans and forming them into mining cooperatives for the purposes of assisting them to meet all the requirements prescribed in the mining law and regulations.

It added that, “Formalization is a crucial process which enables the Ministry to obtain vital information and data about the miners, their mine areas and modes of operation. It allows ease of administration, monitoring and evaluation as well as supervision.”

It noted that the Federal Ministry of Environment is also making progress in Remediation while the Ministry of Health has gone far in the provision of treatment for those infected.

“On the other hand, the Ministry has embarked on vigorous sensitization campaign in the State using both the electronic and print media to enlighten the public, especially the rural people in the mining communities of Zamfara State of the inherent dangers associated with inappropriate mineral processing and illegal mining,” the statement added.

The enlightenment campaign involves programmes structured for broadcasts in Hausa language through Radio Nigeria Kaduna and Zamfara State Radio. In addition, erection of large bill boards in strategic roads in Gusau, Anka and Bagega has also commenced.

The Ministry further announced that it has concluded the procurement arrangement for the importation of wet milling machines and Igoli processing plants. It is important to note that delivery period for the machines is between 6-8 weeks.

Meanwhile, the wet milling machines will drastically eliminate dust generation during gold ore processing while the Igoli machines enhance gold extraction without the application of mercury.

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