Making mining environmentally friendly in Nigeria

 As with all living things, humans begin to die the moment they are born. The challenge, however, is that various things- jobs, the environment and health- make the journey to grave faster. Some faster than others and when it comes to the industry with negative impacts on health, environment and development, the mining industry comes top of mind. The industry is notoriously known as a risky, hazardous and inconvenient place to work and live, with people sustaining injuries, contacting terminal illnesses and dying.

The best way to change the narrative of this industry is to begin eco-friendly mining.

Less than a decade ago in Nigeria, no fewer than 500 children died as a result of lead poisoning in eight villages in the northern part of the country. Four years later, thousands of children were still in need of medical treatment as villages remained contaminated.

It might seem like a long time ago, but the ten years into the anniversary of the worst lead poisoning in history and eco-friendly mining is yet to begin.

The sector quite alright has witnessed shift overtime –from manually using hands to dig out mining shafts to using equipment — but this shift has been minimal as the sector is still largely dominated by artisanal and small-scale miners who are more concerned with finding the minerals than taking care of the environment.

In Nigeria, 90 percent of artisanal or small-scale mining (ASM) are informal and while the sector offers opportunities for poverty reduction and decent employment, (2-4 million Nigerians depend directly or indirectly on artisanal mining for their sustenance) the informality of the sector poses a great challenge for the environment.

Making mining environmentally friendly

The impact of direct and indirect mining practices on the environment can be as dire as erosion, sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, carbon emission contaminated surface water and soil.

The environmental impact of these processes can be reduced by increasing efficiency in manufacturing processes, improving the environmental performance of mines, legalizing and regulating mines and focusing on renewable energy.

Another way to ensure eco-friendly mining is with technology. By using mining technologies from tailings; dust suppression techniques; liquid membrane emulsion technology; sulphuric acid leaching extraction, impermeable tailings storage the mining process would gradually go green.

Environmentally friendly policies and actions are not limited to the mines as refineries also produce a lot of toxic gas that pollutes the environment and have adverse effects on the health.

Nigeria’s first gold refinery, Kian Smith Trade & Co in collaboration with Noemdek, a Nigeria-based international advisory firm, is hosting the first ever West Africa gold conference between June 25-26 in the economic hub of the country, Lagos state.

The “Gold West Africa” themed conference aims at strengthening West Africa’s gold value chain as well as enabling relevant policies and market infrastructure for the gold ecosystem by positioning Nigeria as pivotal to the sector’s development.