The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, has accused security operatives of aiding and abetting illegal mining activities in Plateau State.
Mr. Fayemi made the accusation while addressing security operatives in Kampani Zurak village in Bashar chiefdom of Wase Local Government Area of the state where 20 illegal miners, including eight Chinese citizens, were arrested on Monday on the order of the National Security Adviser, Ali Monguno.
“It is sad that security operatives are giving them (illegal miners) security cover. If not, why do people guard this site?” the minister said.
A PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter observed three security checkpoints mounted by members of the Special Taskforce on Jos Crisis (STF) at the mining site.
Mr. Fayemi described the illegal miners as economic saboteurs.
“These miners are illegal. Government did not give them permission to do this, they are economic saboteurs.
“This cannot happen anywhere else in the world and we will not allow it anywhere in Nigeria. We do not want these miners,” a fuming Mr. Fayemi told the security agents.
The state governor, Simon Lalong, while addressing the gathering, said government would sanction any traditional ruler found to have connived with the miners to exploit the community.
Mr. Lalong also threatened to transfer the divisional police officer in charge of Wase Local Government Area for allowing the illegal miners excavate the land.
Mr. Lalong, who was visibly furious over the activities of the miners, alleged that the miners excavate minerals from the site worth N5 billion monthly.
Reacting to the arrest of the illegal miners, the member of the House of Representatives for Wase, Idris Maje, urged that the arrested miners be bought to book.
He advised that the sites be guarded against further saboteurs.
In his address to the minister, the chairman of Bashar Chiefdom Community Development Association, Zakari Mohammed, alleged that there was N15 billion worth of minerals at the depot of the miners.
“There are over 150 truckloads of lead zinc material valued at over N15 billion at the depot of these illegal miners, which are yet to be moved out as a result of restrictions by the community.”
Mr. Mohammed said the the only source of potabe water of the host community of the mineral had been contaminated due to mining activities.
The federal commissioner of the Public Complaint Commission in charge of Plateau State, Musa Adamu, who hails from the community, told journalists that at least 10 persons from the community had died of cholera disease due to contaminated water.
“In 2014, this community lost over 10 people due to contaminated water following activities of the illegal miners,” he said.
A youth in the community, Usman Usman, who said he had benefited from the mining activities, was not happy about the clampdown on illegal mining in the area.
“To me the miners are helping us. I built my house and got married from the money I got from Solid Unity Nigeria Limited. Sometimes I get between N30,000 and N50,000 in two weeks from the activitesi”
The site manager of Geotexx Mining Company, Chidi Onoyima, who was also accused of the illegality, however debunked the claims of the community.
Mr. Oniyima, who escaped arrest, said his company had suspended excavation due to a court case against it by the community.
Officials of Solid Unit Nigeria Limited, a company allegedly owned by Abdullah Usman, also known as “Dan China”, the alleged kingpin of illegal mining in the area, were arrested by the police.
PREMIUM TIMES observed that the host community of the two mining sites do not have roads, schools, healthy facilities, potable water or mobile telecommunications network.