Time to regulate mining practice in the FCT | Dailytrust

Time to regulate mining practice in the FCT

The Federal Capital Territory, like many other parts of Nigeria, is rich in mineral resources; geological materials such as Cassiterite, Clay, Dolomite, Gold, Lead/Zinc, Marble and Tantalite.                       

The mining industry contributes substantially to the economic growth and development of various nations around the world, but it is not without its hazards to the environment and the health and safety of humans.

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There was a story of residents of Kubwa Extension II Residential Area, Abuja, who had to cry out to government over the hazardous effects of the activities of a quarry situated in their community. Residents lamented that not only were dust particles a constant feature of the community’s air; noise pollution in the form of very loud sounds caused by using explosives to blast rocks was also a norm. There is also constant noise from the heavy machines used on the site, as well as from the never-ending stone milling that goes on in the quarry.

Residents also decried the damage to roads in the area caused by trailers transporting rocks from the quarry site and the general disruption of the tranquility of the neighbourhood which they said was affecting their mental health.

Furthermore, it was noted that the community’s efforts to seek redress through their residents’ association only resulted in their human rights being violated when the police, even after being pre-informed, swooped in and disrupted their peaceful protest at the gate of the mining company, injuring some persons in the process. They also arrested and charged to court the chairman of the residents’ association for organising an unlawful protest .

As regards mining in the FCT, the first shortfall is the lack of environmental education, information and warning. Many indigenous communities have gladly embraced mining only to realise later its negative effects as it  interrupts life.

It is therefore the duty of the government agencies in charge of mining to ensure that people only live within safe distance from mines and not in health-damaging proximity. Information concerning areas earmarked for mining should be of public knowledge so as to avoid people ignorantly purchasing lands in these areas from equally ignorant locals out to make unlawful land sales to enrich themselves. It is the prerogative of government through its relevant agencies to let communities with mineral deposits that are about to be explored know what to expect; the consequences to their health and well-being, flora and fauna, livelihood, environment and social life should be explained in detail (conducting Environmental Social Impact Assessment [ESIA] shouldn’t only be done for the purpose of getting mining licence but should be placed on public notice and published for public consumption and reference whenever the need arises). These communities should also be informed about what real and meaningful compensation they are entitled to and how they can exercise their rights to this compensation.

Another bugging issue is that of mining companies getting lease by government to begin operations when they have not even met with the host communities for a community development agreement to be signed or these companies not keeping to the signed community development agreement or doing so halfway and haphazardly and communities turning to government to seek redress without any success. This should not be so as it can leave community members dissatisfied, embittered and tension-prone, and may ultimately result in a disruption of the peaceful coexistence of communities and mining companies. Mining companies should not relegate the Community Development Agreement (CDA) signed to the back burner. It is imperative that they do all they can to curtail the adverse effects of their activities on the community and that what is left behind at the expiration of their tenure is more than just environmental degradation and health problems. To add to that, government should play its role of protecting its citizens by effectively regulating and monitoring mining companies, not just to ensure that they’re observing and maintaining global best practice and adhering to standard guidelines in their activities, but to make sure that they do not renege on their corporate social responsibility to their host communities.

On their part, indigenous communities should not engage in or support illegal mining.

 

Dorcas Edet and Bassey Bassey are with HipCity Innovation Centre, Abuja 

 

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