Mr Salim Adegboyega, the Acting Director of Mines Environmental and Compliance Department in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, disclosed this to the press in Abuja.
He said that more abandoned mining sites would be identified as the field surveys were still ongoing.
Adegboyega recalled that the Federal Government reclaimed many abandoned mining sites which were managed by the Northern Regional Government in 1955.
“The Federal Government gave some grants to the Northern Regional Government and about 1,000 mines were said to have been reclaimed through biological and other means then,’’ he said.
Adegboyega said that the Federal Government also reclaimed several abandoned mining sites in 1980.
He said that the ministry had reclaimed 17 abandoned mining sites out of the 1,200 identified sites.
The acting director said that the reclaimed sites were in Ebonyi, Plateau, Kano, Borno, Abia, Kaduna and Cross River states, among others.
Adegboyega said that on the average, the ministry spent between N80 and N100 million to reclaim a mining site, but said that the expenditure could be less depending on the size of mining site.
He said that mines’ reclamation was an expensive venture as the cost depended on size of a site and the distance where materials would be brought to fill the mines and other factors.
He said that the rating of sites was based on the potential degree of their environmental hazard, adding that the ministry selected the first 40 mining sites out of the 1,200 identified sites for the reclamation.
Adegboyega said that the ministry had fully reclaimed 17 out of the 40 mining sites it selected from the 1,200 identified sites.
He said that the ministry planned to reclaim 100 sites annually between 2007 and 2020.
The officer, however, conceded that due to paucity of funds, the ministry was only able to reclaim either one or two sites at a time.
He said that this was the reason for low figure of the sites so far reclaimed.
“We estimated about N6 billion for 100 sites in 2007, but only N1.1 billion has been released,’’ he said.
Adegboyega said that the ministry would reclaim three mining sites in the country this year, but the management had yet to decide on the locations of these sites.
He said that it was virtually impossible to reclaim all the abandoned mining sites because some of the ponds at the sites were now being used for irrigation farming, fishing and water supply for domestic and industrial purposes.
The acting director said in some communities, the mining ponds was serving as veritable sources of job and wealth creation, adding that most of the tomatoes and potatoes grown in Jos were from those ponds.
“The water is also used as source of industrial and domestic water supply to various homes. Jos International Breweries is one of the plants using this kind of water for industrial purposes.
“In Barkin Ladi, the pond water is distributed to various homes for domestic use, although the water is not good for drinking as it is untreated, but then it solves a lot of problems,’’ he said.
Adegboyega said that where research had shown that a mining pond contained mercury and heavy matters, the site would be reclaimed or the communities would be advised not to use the water for any purpose.
He said that mining sites were abandoned in the past because there were no laws stipulating that those sites should be either be reclaimed or rehabilitated whenever they were no longer active.
The acting director said that the first law came up in 1946, but it had no detailed provisions about reclamation, adding that the Mining Act 2007 prescribed certain standards for mining sites’ reclamation efforts.
He said that one of the current obligations of the mineral title holders was to reclaim the site before they vacated a mining site.
Adegboyega said that the miner was obliged to set aside some money, in form of collateral, at the ministry and in the event of any failure to reclaim a site, the money would be used for the reclamation.
He said that for instance, 20 mining companies in Ondo State had been sanctioned for not complying with extant mining and environmental laws.