Jos, the Plateau State capital popularly called the “Tin City,” used to boast of one of the largest mining sites in Africa. In this report, AGABUS PWANAGBA writes on how the once lucrative trade is now creating tension in some communities, leading to loss of lives and throwing children out of school.
Tin mining began early in the Bronze Age, as bronze is a copper-tin alloy. Tin is a relatively rare element in the Earth’s crust, with approximately 2 ppm (parts per million), compared to iron with 50,000 ppm.
Tin is one of the few metals which has been used and traded by humans for more than 5000 years.
One of its oldest uses is in combination with copper to make bronze. Copper was first coated with tin in the first century AD and tin-plated iron was manufactured in the 16th century.
It has the advantageous combinations of a low melting point, malleability, resistance to corrosion and fatigue, and the ability to alloy with other metals. It also is non-toxic and easy to recycle.
However, Plateau State situated in North-Central part of the country is the home of mining activities by the Europeans before the discovery of oil in Nigeria.
History has it that tin mining was discovered around 1700 to 1750 in Kasa bear a river channel in Jos.
During the time of subsistence agriculture, the people needed more advanced tools besides their hands and sticks. The farmers saw tin minerals and crystals near the river. They realised by mixing tin and iron, they could have stronger agricultural instruments. The people believed the discovery of tin was a gift from God.
It was said that by 1760 to 1770, there were 13 indigenous blacksmith smelters in Naraguta, located in Jos North Local Council. The Berom ethnic group were finding and producing tin along River Dilimi near Jos.
Tin became popular during the industrial revolution in Europe. Spain was using the tin for gun barrels and during the first World War, the need for tin increased even the more because of its use for ammunition.
Before then, it was one of the major sources of revenue generation in the country. However, a visit to some Local Government Councils in the state showed several abandoned mining sites.
This council areas are Jos North, Jos South, Bokkos, Jos East, Bassa, Mangu, Barkin Ladi, Riyom, among others.
Some of the minerals that are found on the Plateau include iron, magnetite, tin, columbite, lead, zinc, tantalite and so on.
These minerals too can be found in Nasarawa, Zamfara Bauchi, Kogi and Bauchi states.
By 1913, there were over 108 mining companies registered by the Royal Niger Company.
In the same vein, in 1943, tin mining on the Plateau was at its peak. There were over 80,000 African workers and up to 1960, Jos was the sixth largest producer of tin in the world.
In the 1970s, Nigeria produced an average of 10,000 tons of tin ore annually. Experts estimated that miners on the Plateau dug up six million tons of soil each year.
Sitting on a vast mineral rich Plateau, Jos and its surroundings became prosperous and famous as a result of tin mining activities.
The Tin City, as Jos is popularly called, also witnessed high concentration of Europeans miners.
Now, this activities that have brought Jos to international limelight has gradually faded away.
Primary and Secondary school age Children have now abandoned school for illegal mining activities in the State.
This activities has led to a large number of student/pupil drop out of school to pursue illegal mining business in various locations in the state.
It behooves on relevant federal and State government agencies to as a matter of urgency wake up from their slumber to do everything possible to stop the illegal mining activities going on in the state.
These development if allowed to continue will led to low school enrolment as most of the illegal mining sites were close to either secondary school or prima
Indeed these illegal mining activities is being carried out by mostly youth in Jos North, Bassa, Jos South, Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Government Councils of the State.
Investigation by THE AUTHORITY revealed that hundreds of youth including married women could be seen on a single site.
Apart from the illegal mining activities that is going on, other business like frying of bean cake, Burukutu Joint, Marijuana joint, free women are also at the site to offer their service by massaging their client as soon as they came out from the pit after excavation.
Our correspondent also observed that there are bachers in all the illegal mining sites visited.
In fact every illegal mining site is a conglomeration of other supportive business activities.
As against this background, stakeholders in the education sector in Barkin-Ladi and Bassa Local Government Area have cried out, calling on relevant government authorities to look into the ugly trend that is affecting the education of school aged children.
The stakeholders made the call when the Commissioner for Secondary Education in the state Hon. Joseph Mairiga visited Government College Foron in Barkin-Ladi LGA.
According to the Area Director of Education Barkin-Ladi LGA, Elizabeth Longbam, “This development has led to increase in school drop out in the area.”
Longbam acknowledged the increase of students enrollment in public school this year as a result of the relative peace that has returned to the area, but lamented that tin mining activities in the locality is distracting students from attending school especially with the housing of Chinese miners close to female hostel of Government College Foron.
The Director maintained that though the Chinese workers have left but the effects are unimaginable, stressing that activities of the Chinese miners should be checked and machinery should be put in place to avert the escalation of the ugly act to other schools.
Also stakeholders from Bassa LGA have also called for intervention on the illegal mining activities in the area along Mista Ali.
The Principal of Government Secondary School Mister. Alih, Mrs. Jijida Jamo told the Commissioner that the ongoing mining activities in the area is threatening the education of the children of the area and is distracting the activities of the institution and called for urgent intervention.
She pointed out that, in 2016, it took the effort of security personnel to chase these miners away in the area but this year they have come back again in large numbers.
The Commissioner ordered Area Directors of Secondary schools in the 17 LGAs to always go round all public schools in their domain with the view to report to security agencies to ensure that those illegal miners mining close to public schools are chase away.
Meanwhile the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDS) in the State recently arrested four persons for carrying out illegal mining activities around the Lamingo dam, in Jos North Local Government Area of the State.
The NSCDC Public Relations Officer in the State, Naomi Cishak told Journalists that the corps also arrested three other illegal miners around Mista Ali, in Bassa LGA of the state recently.
Chishak warned residents to desist from mining around the Lamingo dam which she said was detrimental to the health of all residents of Jos city, and stressed that the NSCDC will intensify efforts to arrest such illegal miners.
It would be recalled that the Acting General Manager, Plateau State Water Board Lambert Gonzuk said due to the mining activities, the Board had already commenced increasing the treatment chemicals in the water to make it safe.
“When we learnt about the mining activities taking place in the dam, we tried to appeal to some of the illegal miners (youth) to stop but they threatened to stone us which was why we collaborated with the civil defense and we are happy that they are doing everything possible to stop the activities of this illegal miners in the state.,” he said.
The general manager warned this army of youth engaging in this activities very close to Lamingo water treatment plant to desist from this act or face the full wrath of the law.
According to him, the activities of miners around the treatment plant is having negative adverse effect on the quality of water.
Speaking to our correspondent in one of the site of the illegal mining, Chuwang a 19 year old boy said he use the proceeds from the business to take care of his aged parents as well as his needs.
“People call our business illegal mining and sometime security operatives go after us, it is better than to go and steal or engaged in kidnapping business.
“We are exploring the blessing of God on our land to our own benefit.” He said.
However, following a clash between illegal/local miners at Gyero village of Gyel District in Jos South Local Government Area of State, 6 persons have been confirmed death as a result of the clash.
The incident was said to have occurred at about 1pm last week Wednesday, when miners from Gyel in Jos South LGA and others from Miango district of Bassa LGA, were arguing over the ownership of a lucrative mining well, which later snowballed into a clash that claimed 6 persons.
According to a miner who does not want his name in print, that four persons were killed and dumped into a mining pond when people were fleeing from the scene of the clash for safety.
The miner said, “I escaped been killed by a group of youths who were running after innocent persons in the mining camp, they were carrying daggers and sticks.
“When two people were killed from Gyel community, youths from the area quickly mobilized and killed three persons from Miango as a revenge until the Military intervene”.
When contacted, Plateau State Police Commissioner, Mr. Peter Ogunyanwo, confirmed that 6 persons were killed, three from each of the communities during an argument in a mining camp.
Ogunyanwo said it took the intervention of the Special Task Force (STF), Military from the Rukuba Barracks and the Police to restore peace in the area.
The Police Chief, urged the warring communities to sheath their sword and embraced peace.
He warned that anybody caught in the scene of the crisis would be arrested.
However, reports have it that closed to ten persons have lost their lives as a result of clashes at the mining fields.
The million dollar question is, are those involve in this activities classified as illegal miners or local miners?
There is the need for relevant authorities to step up and stem the tide before it turns into a communal clash, with what seems to be a lucrative business becoming a battle field.