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Field Report #209: Abandoned tin mines endanger communities
At Gyel District
Present state of affairs
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At Gyel District

At Gyel District, adjudged one of the worst impacted communities, an independent study in the 1980s indicated that 10.3 per cent of all the arable land was already destroyed through the operation of mining companies. Accessing this community from Jos South LGA township would normally take 30 minutes by vehicle.

This, however, was not the case when ERA monitor visited. Vehicular access terminated at a near-dilapidate bridge that runs across a stream which was said to have claimed several lives in recent time. The dangerous opening on the bridge constructed with wood nearly three decades ago was yet to be repaired when the field trip was conducted.

It was observed that reckless mining activity had created the semblance of a community that had been bombed at different locations as the entire landscape was one of gorges, ponds and gulley erosion.

Jephta Ngurore, an indigene told ERA that “the soil where farming is best suited is now polluted and unusable because of gorges everywhere and fear of contamination of whatever is grown.”

Grave Impacts
Independent studies conducted in the mid-1980’s confirmed high levels of radioactive waste in the tin mine sites capable of causing brain damage and mental deficiency if there is regular human contact with the environment.
The study also noted that some base metals that litter the environment have also caused pollution of water and hampered economic activities in the impacted communities.

How it all began
History tells us that the British colonialists became aware of commercial quantity of solid minerals in the Jos Plateau when William Wallace was sent by the National African Company (NAC) which later became the Royal Niger Company (RNC) to establish a trading post at Loko on the Benue River in 1886.

The company was said to have bought a small quantity of tin ore from Kano without making any serious effort to discover its source. A more serious British interest team interested in the source of the solid mineral came up with an arrangement which saw Royal Niger Company surrender a charter of control over trade in the Jos Plateau. And with that, the British government formally entered tin mining exploration in the region.

Centuries before, the Nok people now identified as the original settlers in the Jos Plateau area were said to have engaged in bronze making and smelted beads, thus confirming the belief that a thriving tin smelting industry pre-dated the colonial times when exploitation became more ferocious without regard to the environment.

When commercial mining began, the lucrative trade started attracting laborers from distant ethnic nationalities like the Urhobo, Kalabari, Igbo, Yoruba and Bini, among others, who started settling in the Jos area and spurred crisis with the local community people on the issue of who owned the land.

Shamaki Peter of the League of Human Rights explained to ERA monitor that mining in commercial quantity in the Jos plateau started in 1902 and by the mid 1940s, it had become very evident even to host communities that controls and regulations were virtually non-existent in checking the excesses of foreign companies that engaged in reckless scavenging for tin ore and in the process, undermined livelihoods of locals who were engaged mostly in farming.

Some of the companies involved in mining at that time included: British Tin Mining Corporation, ATMN, Bisichi-Jantar, Gold and Base, Exlands, and Kaduna Prospectus.  By the late 1960s when tin mining activity in the Jos Plateau started experiencing a lull, the aforementioned companies metamorphosed into what is now known as Consolidated Tin Mines of Nigeria Limited. But unfortunately, after the departure of the former, government failed to finance remediation efforts. And rather than reclaim the land and resettle the people, government wanted them to move without compensation or arrangements to settle them properly.

Green Hotlines
Green Hotlines
Is there a spill, pipeline rupture, fire, gas flare, water, land or air pollution in your community or one you know about? Do you need assistance to respond, and prevent future occurrences or have you noticed any activity that threatens the environment?

In the event of any ecological disaster or threat to the environment, call our toll-free GREEN LINES:  08031230088 & 08031230089