ABUJA – The Federal Government on Monday said henceforth, it would encourage the use of borax for mining operations instead of the popular mercury and cyanide.
Mr Dauda Awojobi, the Acting Director of Mines Inspectorate, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
Awojobi said that borax was a more environmentally and human friendly chemical than mercury and cyanide.
“Mercury and cyanide are extremely toxic. Latest research and development have revealed that the use of borax is internationally acceptable and friendly,” he said.
He recalled that the ministry collaborated with civil society organisations, global agencies, ministry of health and ministry of environment to remediate polluted environment after the lead poison incident in Zamfara.
“We made the people to realise that their mineral extraction methods are harmful. They were using mortar and pestle to grind the schist called pegmatite,’’ he said.
He explained that in the process of grinding the minerals, the dust and other elements from the minerals infiltrated the body systems of the people and made them to develop serious health problems.
Awojobi said that the Federal Government had developed a new concept called “safer mining method’’ which involved the use of wet mini machines for mining activities.
He said that the ministry had carried out regular public awareness campaign for artisanal and small-scale miners to enhance control and proper management of mining sites.
He also said the ministry had established an integrated research platform to address specific health and safety issues, adding that efforts were being made to ensure safety during mining operations.
According to her, the measures were introduced to forestall the recurrence of the Zamfara lead poison incident in any part of the country.
Awojobi further disclosed that President Goodluck Jonathan had constituted a Mines Surveillance Task Force to curb the rising menace of illegal miners across the country.
“The president has also constituted a committee that would work on a seven-year development plan for the solid minerals sector.
“It was recommended that a department should be established to regulate the activities of illegal miners,’’ he said, adding that the Department of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining had started organising illegal miners into cooperatives.
“Organising the miners into cooperatives will help to expose them to salient mining issues such as the right approach to mineral extraction, the issue of mineral title approval and extension services training.
“This is the way we are approaching it and it is the best approach worldwide; it is not about arresting, prosecuting and sending illegal miners to prison.
“We realise that mining should be encouraged to generate employment. We feel that we should turn their negative approach to mining into what we think is better organised and managed,’’ he said.
Awojobi recalled that the World Bank, through its Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources project, gave 10 million dollars (about N1.6 billion) grant to some cooperatives to enhance their productivity.
He stated that a lot had been achieved through the project as more miners had been exposed to safe mining techniques. (NAN)