Over 1000 illegal mining sites are said to be existing in Nigeria through activities that promote illicit financial outflows, thereby denying the country of highly needed income from its rich natural resources.
Gbenga Okunlola, president of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS) made the revelation in Abujaon Thursday while addressing journalists ahead of a conference being organized by the society with the theme “Extractive Industry: Imperative for Wealth Creation and Employment Generation.”
The conference, which will hold in the Nigerian capital, beginning from March 26 to 32, is expected to host at least 2000 participants from Nigeria, Africa and other parts of the world, he said.
The issue of artisanal and illegal mining has troubled the country economically and has also been a subject of health and death.
Between March and June 2010, a series of lead poisoning in Zamfara State led to the deaths of at least 163 people, including 111 children.
Health ministry figures confirmed the discovery of 355 cases, with 46 percent proving fatal.
On the economic side, Nigeria is said to be losing about $1.54 billion annually to illegal miners of gold in different parts of the country, according to Kayode Fayemi, the minister of mines and steel development.
“Even gold that no records show has been exported from this country, we now know from investigations by NEITI that Nigeria not only has gold but exports it averagely 100 kilograms per day,” he said.
On Wednesday March 22, Sani Shehu, national president of Miners Association of Nigeria, said the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) had closed about 27 illegal mining sites in Lagos, Edo, Taraba, Imo, Gusau, Plateau, among others.
However, Okunlola said that, apart from mining, Nigeria is blessed with a lot of geo-tourist sites that can serve as revenue spinners for the nation.
According to him, “there are at least 120 geo-touristic sites around Nigeria, and I am even being conservative.”
He mentioned some of them as including the Yankari hot spring in Bauchi, the Ikogosi warm and cold spring water in Ekiti State, as well as what he called “very clean beaches all around the Niger Delta.”