Artisanal gold miners in Nigeria seek government help

Artisanal gold miners in the Niger state of Nigeria are asking the Muhammadu Buhari government to help them operate under conditions that allow them to take better care of the environment and contribute to the local economy.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, the Chairman of the Association of Gold Miners in the Chanchaga Local Government, Michael Abida, said that his group has asked authorities to organize the local miners professionally.

In detail, the miners want the government to help them create and join cooperative societies, as well as issue them licences, provide equipment and train them on modern mining techniques. They say that such support would, in turn, help them reduce their environmental footprint and prompt them to pay taxes.

According to Abida, authorities have had to turn the blind eye to illegal mining operations due to the high unemployment rate that affects the country and that peaked at 18.8 per cent in the last quarter of 2017. "The government realised that right now many Nigerians are jobless, that is why they allowed us to help ourselves but with a warning not to destroy the natural environment," he told the news agency.

In past months, officials have mentioned the need for a coordinated action that allows artisanal miners to perform their jobs under safer and environmentally friendlier conditions, but no concrete strategy has been put in place yet.