NIGERIA – The Federal Government has begun the process of buying up gold produced by Nigerian miners at international prices, in a bid to stop smuggling and exploitation of local miners by foreign merchants.

To kick start the process, the government of Nigeria has embarked on the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative Biometric Exercise which seeks to register all artisanal miners in the country.

The registration exercise is being implemented on a pilot basis and is supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

It has already been flagged off in Yauri Local Government Area of Kebbi State and is expected to be extended to Ogun state.

According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the process is in line with a plan to formalise and integrate artisanal and small-scale gold mining activities in the country.

Speaking while inaugurating the project, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, said the initiative would empower Nigerian artisanal miners.

Nigeria has an average of 21.37 tonnes of gold deposit from 2000 to 2018, and reaching an all time high of 21.40 tonnes in the first quarter of 2018.

Gold deposits are found in Northern Nigeria, most prominently near Maru, Anka, Malele, Tsohon Birnin Gwari-Kwaga, Gurmana, Bin Yauri, Okolom-Dogondaji, and Iperindo in Osun State.

According to a Guardian report, artisan miners are the major players in the gold mining industry.

Their rudimentary methods of mining however exposes them to serious dangers particularly in areas where gold ore contain high concentration of heavy metals like lead which have serious consequences on both the miner and the environment.

Apart from the health hazards from illegal mining of gold in the country, Nigeria is said to be losing about $9 billion yearly to illegal mining and gold exportation, according to the Guardian Nigeria.

It is due to the above factors that the Nigeria is now pursuing with vigour the formalisation exercise that groups artisanal miners into licensed cooperatives and supports them with working tools and training on the use of safer mining and processing methods.

This is in addition to the continuous monitoring of Artisanal Small Scale Miners (ASM) gold mining activities for the purpose of monitoring lead and other heavy metals level in land, air and water in order to prevent lead and other heavy metal contamination of the environment.