Artisanal Mining And Human Right Abuse: Beyond Revenue Generation

The Nigeria’s mining sector has been identified in the Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020 as one of the key drivers for economic growth. The National Bureau of Statistics 2017 report on the disaggregated Mining and Quarrying Data for 2016 shows Nigeria produced 43,495,423.12 tons of solid minerals in 2016, with Ogun State as the highest solid minerals producing state with 16,376,547.50 tons of solid minerals representing 37.65%. The Mining sector contributed about N400 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015. Mr. Kayode Fayemi, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, in an interview with This Day Newspaper projected that mining will add $27bn to Nigeria’s GDP by 2025.

The Nigerian state has developed a mining sector roadmap, according to Mr. Kayode Fayemi, the roadmap would propel Nigeria from a mineral-rich nation to a mineral mining and processing country. To achieve this, the state says she is bringing foreign experts in the mining sector to develop her mining sector.

In addition, Mr. Kayode at the 53rd Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS) conference in Abuja, disclosed that the Federal Government is negotiating $150 million loan from the World Bank to commence the Mindiver Project targeted at resuscitating the mining industry.

The government has approved N30billion intervention fund for the mining sector and plans to put in place Nigerian Solid Minerals Investment Fund that will serve as a private sector-oriented investment outfit to provide financing to private sector-led projects in the mining sector.

In a similar effort, the government wants equipment-leasing scheme for the Nigeria Miners Association (NMA). This, the government argues will scale up their mining operations.

The government argues that developing the mining sector has become imperative and fundamental. It further disclosed that she spends $3.5bn annually importing steel products. Thus, mining remains the spine of industrialization, and Nigeria must develop the sector it if she must attain industrialization.

Glad to see Nigerian state making enormous effort to develop the mining sector and diversify the economy from oil revenues to solid minerals. However, in this endeavour, efforts must not only be concentrated on revenue earnings, huge consideration must be giving to environmental safety and human right protection.

For instance, most of the mining activities in Nigeria are characterized by human rights violations, ranging from the violation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. In Adamawa, Ogun, Plateau, Kogi, Gombe, Zamfara and other states, mining activities destroy local communities and the environment, and the destruction of their environment leads to crippling health problems.

As mining extraction takes place in the communities, the profits go to the multinational companies while the locals are left with poisoned environments and no resources to fix their environmental and human health, because, the locals see little or no monetary gain to compensate for the damage to their environments.

Nigeria no doubt has made revenues from mining; however, we need to strengthen mining operation in the country. Weak governance in mining operation just like other minerals extraction, weak regulation and oversight by local, state and federal governments especially with respect to human right abuse, accountability and transparency, fail to recognize the connections between environmental hazards and human right abuse created by natural resource exploration/extraction to the deterioration in children’s health, education, social security and development.

We recommend that mining companies strictly adhere to community agreement, which is the requirement of the Mining Act. Beyond revenue generation, the government should pay more attention to protecting host mining community’s rights. We found that in the mining communities, Environmental Impact Assessment is not conducted, therefore, further exuberating the human right abuse in the community.

As we seek mining development, we urge the Nigerian state to adopt a broad approach to natural resource governance, strengthen her legal and institutional frameworks to enforce transparency and accountability, and to guarantee that extractive activities take into consideration environmental safety, local content regulations and integrate corporate social responsibility.

In Publish What You Pay, we believe, there is the great need for awareness on environmental issues associated with mining, and in doing that, media tools and technologies must be used to disseminate documentaries, research, and findings of the health and environmental impacts that come with mining activities.

Audu Liberty Oseni

Communication Officer, PWYP-Nigeria

Abuja secretariat