Currently there are two gold mining companies in Nigeria. Segilola Nigeria Limited has a license to mine gold in Osun State, and Geotechniques Nigeria Limited has a license to mine gold in Kebbi State. Five other companies are mining for tin, iron ore, coal, lead, and zinc.
Deposits of gold have been found in the northern part of Nigeria. The areas where these deposits are found include Maru, Tsohon, Bin Yauri, and Iperindo.
Gold Mining History in Nigeria
Mining for gold in these areas began in 1913. By the 1930’s, however, mining began to abate. By the time World War II began, gold production was nil. Imperial companies left the mines, so gold extraction ceased. There was a resurgence of interest to mine again in the 1960’s, but the Nigerian Civil War thwarted those efforts.
Then during the 1980’s, the search for gold resumed by the Nigerian Mining Corporation (NMC). The NMC was not successful in part because of poor funding of the venture.
Mining in general was abounding with problems because of government impassivity. This indifference was due to government focus on the discovery of oil in 1956. Oil remains the most valuable commodity in Nigeria today. However, in 2015, the government issued gold mining licenses to the two companies mentioned above.
Modern Gold Mining Hazards
In 2008, traditional farmers began small-scale gold mining near Bagega. When gold prices skyrocketed during this time due to the Great Recession, mining for the farmers became lucrative. People from other villages converged on Bagega to mine. Even when only small particles of gold were recovered, it still paid well for these small-scale miners.
The mines in this area contained lead which is not typical in most gold mining areas. Exposure to lead can cause learning and behavior problems or even death.
In addition to being exposed to lead, these artisanal miners used mercury to extract gold particles. Mercury has its own hazardous properties. It can cause many medical problems that can also lead to death. This, unfortunately, is what happened to these former farmers and their children. The children, especially, suffered. In fact, over 460 children died from lead exposure and many more were injured. Lead poisoning causes children to suffer from far more health issues than adults. Neurological problems from the lead left some of the children that did survive with blindness and paralysis.
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The government did allocate funds to international companies specializing in environmental clean-up. One company shipped in thousands of cubic meters of clean soil and discovered that the existing soil had almost 100 times the rate of lead considered to be safe. Yet, small-scale gold mining by former farmers still goes on despite the deaths of so many children. These farmers turned to mining because of several years of abnormal rainfall which severely hurt their livelihoods. Mining for them is the only alternative.
Future Gold Mining in Nigeria
The biggest roadblock to gold mining by large prospectors is the lack of information on Nigeria’s gold mining activities by the government. Another factor is that small-scale miners do not keep adequate records of the gold that they have discovered. As a result, the value of the nation’s gold is minimized.
Yet, there is gold in Nigeria. The proof is that 1.4 metric tons of gold were mined in the early 1930’s. However, in order for gold mining companies to feel secure enough to prospect in Nigeria, information on the amount of gold being mined must be made available. Safe mining systems must also be in place for the small-scale miner.
The Nigerian government has a lot of work to do to attract gold mining companies. It has produced some literature on gold mining, but that is not enough. What is needed is a wide-spread campaign to inform those who are interested in serious gold mining and a better method of licensing and record keeping.
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