Following the recent crisis across the southwest between herdsmen and their host communities, northern artisanal miners in Ondo State have abandoned their trade for fear of being attacked.
The Guardian reports that this development has made the artisanal miners to down tools. This is expected to lead to a drop in the supply of gold.
Coordinator of the artisanal miners in Oke-Igbo, Ondo State, Mr. Olanrewaju Akinnigba, said this could invariably drive the price of gold in the parallel market high.
Akinnigba, who is also the managing director, Fxmanager International Company, said: “The major problem artisanal miners are facing in this part of the country now is the ethnic tension caused by the eviction order given to the Fulani herders in the western states.
“In view of this, labourers cannot go into the bush for fear of being attacked in the forest. This is because about 90 per cent of the labour force in the artisanal mining sector is made up of northerners who are generally at peace with their host communities.”
Akinnigba added that artisanal gold mining is new in the area as illegal mining was the order at Oke-Igbo community. He noted that the intervention of mining investors had led to a decline in the illegal mining business.
According to him, efforts are being made by the federal officials in the state to sanitise and regulate the activities of illegal miners and provide technical support to miners.
Akinnigba said the host community was a major problem to mining activities in the axis, as farmers are not informed of the role of the mining sector in the economy.
“Anytime the host communities hear of gold, they make huge demands,” he said.
Also speaking with The Guardian, Manager, BETSAM Global Resources, a licensed mining company in Ondo State, Benjamin Akunne, said the tension in the region had a huge implication as it would discourage the private sector investment in mining.
“The major problem artisanal are facing is not only in Ondo State but all across the mining communities within the southwest states. Most of the labourers are involved in artisanal mining in the area from the north. They are now afraid of being attacked, which is the reason they are fleeing the region.
“Recently the spokesperson of the Western Security Network (Amotekun) in one of the states stated that armed herders now disguise themselves as miners in the forest. So, when you call labourers, they tell you they are afraid because they don’t want to be arrested and paraded as killer herdsmen.
“Another problem is the outrageous and unrealistic demand from the host communities. Because most of these communities are in the forest and they lack social amenities such as drinking water, roads among others, they put much pressure on the artisanal miners to come to their aid, even before they start business.”
Meanwhile, the Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Investment and Development, Boye Oyewunmi, told The Guardian, that the supposed artisanal miners were not licensed, hence their operations are illegal.
“Let us put it on to understand how illegality breeds criminality and these artisanal miners are not even licensed. So, they are not bringing any value to the state or the Federal Government.
“We saw what happened in Zamfara State where banditry was traced to mining activities. There are suspicions that the widespread criminality in Zamfara is a fallout of artisanal mining.
“We are not interested in the ethnicity of the miners, we want to develop our raw materials and it will be done in a legal and organised manner because after illegal miners have destroyed the mining sites, the government will be left with the responsibility of addressing the environmental hazards. Banditry and territorial wars are traced to illegal mining activities,” he said.
Reacting to the claims of the SA, Akinnigba explained that the northerners work for licensed companies; hence their activities could not be described as illegal.