Four Chinese nationals and 16 Nigerians have been arrested for allegedly running an elaborate illegal mining operation in Ebonyi State.
The arrest during a raid of the mining site at Echara Unuphu in Abakaliki Local Government Area during a raid by the police and other security agencies on Wednesday was at the instance of the state government.
The state government said the miners built a wide tunnel and hired soldiers to prevent its officials from inspecting their operation.
The Special Adviser to the State Governor on Solid Mineral Development, Nwakaego Nworie, said she visited the site with geology experts but the miners prevented them from inspecting the site.
“I became very curious and insisted that I must see the whole site. I moved down inside the site. I got to a place, a soldier blocked me and threatened to shoot me if I pass him. The soldier told me, ‘Don’t go to that extreme’. That day, I saw the tunnel even though I was prevented from going closer to it.
“Today, I am overwhelmed that I have seen the tunnel of mining for the first time in my life. I made investigation to know if our office is aware of this tunnel and no one could give me information. Before an underground mining can take place, there must be a bye-law and mutual agreement between the host state and investor. But now, we are not aware of underground here and it is worrisome,” she said.
The Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Internal Security, Kenneth Ugbala, described the activities of the miners as shocking, saying they were creating environmental and security problems to the state.
He said the miners could also be using the tunnel for other illegal activities
“The future of this state is at stake because of the activities of these illegal miners. I had the privilege of being in China recently and I know that the Chinese don’t tamper with their environment no matter what the problem may be,” Mr. Ugbala said.
“With the type of problem created here in the name of mining, it is possible that this tunnel they created must have passed underground to Government House and every other place that Ebonyi people are living.
“There is no society that this type of thing is seen. It is not as if they pay IGR and what type of IGR will even be more important than the future of our children and the entire people of the state?
One of the suspects, Nnamdi Peter who hails from Enugu State, said he had worked in the mining tunnel for three months.
“In the first place, I don’t know this is illegal mining. If it is illegal, I wouldn’t have been working here. The company should have carried out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with NESRA before embarking on this type of mining.”
The Chinese men refused to speak to reporters, gesticulating with their hands to indicate that they do not speak or understand English.
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