25 January 2016, Lagos – A post-doctoral research fellow at Faculty of Natural Sciences, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa, Dr. Oluwatosin Oladipo, has said that the activities of gold miners and the extraction of other solid minerals are causing pollution to rivers and having negative effects on agricultural practice and health of people in the host communities.
Oladipo, who said this while presenting the report of research works she carried out in different communities with solid minerals deposits in Osun, Oyo and Ekiti states, said the activities of illegal miners had led to the release of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and zinc, among others, into the ecosystem.
These heavy metal, according to her, have grave health implications on human beings, especially those living close to the mining sites.
Oladipo, who carried out her researches at Itagunmodi in Atakumosa West area of Osun State, Ijero Ekiti, Awo in Osun State and some areas in Oyo State, said that heavy metals, which are by-products of mining, were harmful to animals as well as human beings.
She said most of the miners, especially the illegal ones, did not cover back excavated soil after extracting gold, adding that water trapped in the pits dug always found its way to the rivers in the communities thereby polluting them.
The researcher explained that drinking polluted water could cause miscarriages in women, cancer and other diseases, which she said could be avoided.
Oladipo also said miners usually removed the top soil, while excavating, while the sub soil left would not be good to grow plants.
She said, “Heavy metals arise as by-products of mining of gold and other solid minerals. Zinc, lead, copper, arsenic and cadmium and manganese are very harmful. Increased metal pollution causes disruption of the ecosystem and these heavy metals are a big risk to human health.
“Miners dig pits and abandoned them after excavation. These pits are good breeding grounds for some insects that cause diseases. Heavy metals, for example in pregnant women, cause miscarriages, low birth weight, child deformities and still birth.”
Oladipo called on the government to ensure that illegal activities causing environmental degradation were stopped in order to save the ecosystem.
The Director, Institute of Ecology and Environmental Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Olufemi Awotoye, stated that miners usually do not think about the future while exploring the environment.
“The soil is no longer productive, there is crop failure and pollution. The rate at which things are going, we are likely to end up in disaster in the next 30 years,” he said.
The South West Coordinator of the National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency, Mr. Adeleke Ajani, said the agency had discovered that illegal miners were being allowed to operate by owners of the land because of poverty.
He, however, said that NESREA was working to ensure the stoppage of activities that were causing environmental degradation.
The Alagunmodi of Itahunmodi, Oba Michael Famalewa-Kosile, corroborated the fact that the activities of illegal miners were causing pollution and crop failure in his community.