The Taraba State Special Task Force on Environmental Protection and Illegal Mining has caught illegal miners and taken back 22,373 kg of blue sapphire and other valuable stones.
Brig. Gen. Jeremiah Faransa (Ret. ), who is in charge of the Task Force, told reporters in Jalingo on Monday that over 100 illegal miners, including foreigners, had been caught and charged in the last two months.
Faransa said that the illegal miners hid 22,373 kg of sapphire, which was found in Mayo Sena, Sardauna LGA, Taraba State. The illegal miners were caught in different parts of the state.
He said that both official and illegal miners were doing a lot of damage to the state, including cutting down rosewood trees, also called Madrid trees, without thinking.
He told people who were mining or logging in the state to stop right away, saying that there was an executive order in place that stopped mining and logging in the state.
He said that the unregulated actions of miners in the state had caused arable land that could be used for farming to get worse and that some communities had stopped farming because their land had gotten worse.
In the same way, he didn’t like how mining companies were taking advantage of teens by using them as cheap labor, which led to more kids dropping out of school.
He said that more than 20,000 people, both legal and criminal, live in Taraba State. The ones who aren’t supposed to be there are hiding by working for legit mining companies.
“I knew we were done when we got to the towns of Arufu and Akwana in the Wukari local government area of the state. The story we saw is sad. Both official and illegal miners have dug up and destroyed these communities.
“The land in these towns isn’t good for farming or even building anymore. They no longer farm at all, and now every family in these towns works in the mines.
“Also in Dogon Yasu, mining companies take advantage of teenagers who are meant to be in school and use them as cheap labor.
“When we talked to most of them, we found out that they get N500 or N1000 every day. And that’s why there are more kids dropping out of school in northern Nigeria.”
He did, however, make it clear that the government is not against investors’ work in the mining sector. Instead, it is worried about due diligence and protecting the environment.
“According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation of 2007, the miner is supposed to put back up to 80% of the land that was dug up, but I haven’t seen up to 10% of that in the mines.”