By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
Towards making the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector safe from the anthropogenic emission and releases of Mercury, stakeholders have met in Abuja to validate the project document for the GEF Planetgold in Nigeria.
The Validation Workshop with theme “Enhancing Formalization and Mercury-free Gold in Nigeria” Project was organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment and Global Environment Facility (GEF).
UNIDO collaborated with Nigeria to develop the document validated.
In his welcome address, Mr. Jean B. Bakole, Regional Director and Country Representative for Nigeria and ECOWAS, UNIDO Regional Hub Nigeria, noted that Nigeria’s mining sector is characterized by Artisanal and Small-Scale mining, with their rudimentary ways of carrying out mining and mineral processing activities, lots of indiscriminate use of chemicals and its exposure in and around mining sites and communities.
To this end, he said the Nigeria government and UNIDO is advancing industrial development, economic competitiveness, safeguarding the environment and improving the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector.
He said: “Over 90% of Nigeria’s mining sector is characterized by Artisanal and Small-Scale mining and because of the rudimentary ways of carrying out mining and mineral processing activities, there are lots of indiscriminate use of chemicals and its exposure in and around mining sites and communities.
“A good example is the case of the Lead poisoning in Zamfara and Niger States, which was also complicated by the miners taking Lead containing ores to their homes to amalgamate with Mercury.
“Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is responsible for 37% of the anthropogenic emission and releases of Mercury into the environment and this makes it the largest source of anthropogenic source of Mercury globally. Gold is one of the seven strategic minerals as reflected in Nigeria’s Mining and Minerals Roadmap.
He restated that the Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international legal instrument which looks to reduce and where feasible eliminate the anthropogenic releases and emissions of Mercury into our environment.
“It is the first environment convention that specifies both human health and the environment, the Convention came into force on 16 August 2017.
“UNIDO has a history of working in the ASGM sector globally and we are also implementing National Action Plan (NAP) and other ASGM projects in several African countries and other parts of the world.
“Our support and collaboration to the Nigerian government in meeting its obligations under the Minamata Convention has been shown through various platforms, some of which are through the implementation of Nigeria’s Minimata Convention Initial Assessment and the Nigeria’s National Action Plan Development on Mercury in the ASGM Sector.
“UNIDO is also developing this GOLD+ project for Madagascar, Ghana and Bolivia after successfully completing for Burkina Faso under the first phase. The development of this project will further strengthen UNIDO’s collaboration with Nigeria Mining, Industrial and Environment sectors.
“Our long-standing cooperation with the Nigeria government to improve industrialization and safeguard the environment will continue to grow. Our new Country Programme gives priority to the Mining, Minerals and Environment sectors. UNIDO has worked the Nigerian Government and various other relevant stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria produces a good project document.
Earlier in an opening remarks, the Director, Department of Pollution Control and Environmental Health, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr Charles Ikeah, said the advent of the GEF Gold project is timely and in line with governments priority to protect human lives and the environment, effectively implement the provisions of the Minamata Convention on mercury, strategically position the mining sector for economic growth and eventually, sustainable development.
He said the federal government is aware of the numerous challenges being experienced by the Environment and Mining sectors and is committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda’s specific targets to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.
In an interview, Mr Oluyomi Banjo of UNIDO Environment Desk expressed hope the the outcome of the Workshop will help to deepen sustainable development in the country.
The workshop was attended by representatives of federal and state governments, CSOs, mining sector amongst others.