The Zamfara Government says it is developing an action plan for artisanal mining and mineral processing to eliminate incident of lead poisoning in the state.
Alhaji Kabiru Balarabe, Secretary to the State Government, stated this on Tuesday in Gusau, at the inauguration of a three-day workshop on prevention and control of lead poisoning associated with artisanal gold mining and mineral processing.
The workshop is organised by the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) with support from the office of Secretary to the State Government.
Balarabe said the action plan would prevent recurrence of lead poisoning outbreak that killed more than 700 children in 2010 the state.
“It could be recalled that lead poisoning was discovered by Medecins Sans Frontieres during routine immunisation exercises in some mining communities in the southern part of the state in 2010.
“It was reported to be one of the worst of its kind in human history, where 700 children died of the disaster.
“The disaster brought gold mining in Zamfara to the global spotlight, particularly artisanal mining, which is dominant activity in our communities,” he said.
According to him, the event will complement series of efforts by the state government and groups in tackling multiple health issues associated with lead poisoning in mining communities.
He said the workshop would create awareness on the significance of safer mining practices and dangers of lead poisoning linked to artisanal mining.
“In the end, an Action Plan would be developed to guide artisanal mining and mineral processing in Zamfara.
“The state government has taken measures to prevent the recurrence of the painful experience of 2010.
“The government has organised artisanal miners into mining cooperative as a step towards the formalisation of their activities in line with the Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act 2007, and Mining Regulations 2011,” he said.
The SSG, however, described as disheartening the attitude of some artisanal miners who operate without formal structure like cooperative groups.
Balarabe said the trend posed the danger of unsafe mining practices and make it difficult for government to target them for the promotion of their personal safety.
“As you know mining activities have been suspended by the federal government due security concerns.
“It is our hope that by the time the activities resume, artisanal miners that have not joined the cooperative groups will do so.
“This is not only for their personal safety and that of their communities but also in the interest of advancing their career,” he said.
He reiterated the state government commitment to attract local and foreign investment in the mining sector to promote safer practices among artisans.
According to him, the development of the mining sector is crucial to the overall development of the state and fight poverty among the citizenry.
The SSG thanked Medecins Sans Frontieres for their commitment to humanitarian services for the people in the state.
In his remarks, Mr. Benjamin Janeito, Coordinator, MSF’s Lead Poisoning, said the organisation was creating awareness on significance of safer mining practices and dangers of lead poisoning in the state.
Janeiro said that 50 participants drawn from three most hit local government areas were participating in the three-day exercise.