The Taraba State Special Task Force on Environmental Protection and Illegal Mining has recovered 22,373kg of Blue Sapphire and other precious stones from illegal miners operating in the state.
Briefing journalists in Jalingo, on Monday, the Chairman of the Task Force, Brig. Gen. Jeremiah Faransa (Rtd), further revealed that over 100 illegal miners, including foreigners had been arrested and prosecuted in the past two months.
Faransa, stated that the 22,373 kg of Sapphire concealed by the illegal miners was recovered at Mayo Sena in Sardauna LGA of Taraba State, while the illegal miners were arrested in several parts of the state.
He lamented the grievous damage activities of legal and Illegal miners were causing to the state including those involved in indiscriminate felling of rosewood trees, also known as Madrid.
He warned those engaging in mining and logging in the state to suspend their operations forthwith, saying there was an Executive Order in force suspending mining and logging activities in the state.
He maintained that unregulated activities of miners in the state had led to the degradation of arable lands suitable for farming, saying some communities had abandoned farming because their lands have been degraded.
In the same vein, he frowned at the exploitation of teenagers who are being used as cheap labour by the mining companies thereby increasing the number of school dropouts.
According to him, ” Over 20,000 legal and illegal people are mining in Taraba state. The illegal ones are camouflaging as labourers under the legal mining companies.
“It was in the Arufu and Akwana communities in the Wukari local government area of the state that I knew we were finished. What we saw is a sad tale. These communities have been excavated and destroyed by the activities of both the legal and illegal miners.
“The land in these communities are no longer suitable for farming or even building. They have now abandoned farming completely and every household in these communities have become miners.
“Also in Dogon Yasu, teenagers who are supposed to be in school are being exploited by the mining companies and are used as cheap labour.
“When we interviewed most of them, we discovered that they are being given N500 or N1000 a day. And that is why you see that there is an increase in the number of dropouts in Northern Nigeria.”
He however stressed that the state is not against the activities of investors in the mining sector, but is concerned about due diligence and environmental protection.
“Under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation 2007, it is expected that after excavation, the miner is supposed to refill that land up to 80 per cent, but I have not seen up to 10 per cent in the mining sites.”