Nigeria has developed a national action plan (NAP) for the reduction and eventual elimination of mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) in Nigeria.
In her speech at the presentation of the document developed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and inter-ministerial support in Abuja, the Minister of State of Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, said the document was part of the Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring the protection of human lives and the environment, and also collaborating with stakeholders to reposition the environment and mining sectors for sustainable development.
She pointed to the many challenges preventing the effective growth of the mining sector which the action plan aims to tackle.
“For the mining sector, the challenges exist majorly around funding and attraction of new investments, security situation around mining sites, the preponderance of artisanal and illegal mining operations, attendant environmental pollution and insufficient modern mining infrastructure,” she said.
Saying the government was making concerted efforts to remove the barriers to the effective growth of the sector, Ikeazor who was represented by the ministry’s director of pollution control and environmental health, Charles Ikeah, said the NAP developed by UNIDO in partnership with the ministries of environment, mines and steel development, health supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) aimed to address the challenges in the sector,
She explained that the document would assist in the facilitation of the diversification efforts of government and repositioning of the economy as they would be mainstreamed into the national development process.
In his remarks, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD), Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, said the NAP document had become a valuable instrument in the efforts of government to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining especially the ASGM subsector, describing it as also a demonstration of the country’s fulfillment of an important aspect of the Minamata Convention on Mercury signed in October 2013.
A Minamata Convention’s initial assessment conducted by Nigeria, it would be recalled, revealed that ASGM is one of the sectors that contributes immensely to mercury emission/releases into the environment.
Represented by his director on special duties, Mr Yisao Adegboje, Adegbite said the NAP on mercury in the ASGM sector in the country was developed to provide relevant information on the plans of government to facilitate the improvement of the formalization and regulation of ASGM sector; promote reduction of emission releases and risks of exposure to mercury; and manage trade and prevent diversion of mercury and mercury compounds.
Others are to involve stakeholders in the implementation and continuing development of the plan; develop public health strategy on the exposure of artisanal and small-scale gold miners and their communities to mercury; prevent the exposure of vulnerable populations, particularly children and women of child-bearing age to mercury used in ASGM and provide information to artisanal and small-scale miners and affected communities.
Earlier in his remarks, the regional director and UNIDO representative
to ECOWAS Union Regional Hub Nigeria, Mr Jean Bakole, described the roadmap as a product of an effective partnership between UNIDO and the Federal Government, saying he was counting on the excellent cooperation between federal and state governments s well as other key development partners to support the implementation of the plan for the reduction and eventual elimination of mercury use in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector in the country.