Firm, workers flee site as illegal miners invade Edo community

There is tension at Dagbala in Akoko Edo Local Government Area, Edo State, following the invasion of the sleepy town by over 1,000 miners excavating for gold with suspicious licenses.

NDV gathered that intruders without specific details of operational areas have taken over the forests of Dagbala and neighbouring communities in search of gold and other solid minerals.

However, the leadership of the local government area called a stakeholders’ meeting recently, to halt mining activities before illegal miners cause anarchy.

A resident confided in NDV that containers of mining equipment meant for mining activities were brought to the community in the cover of darkness.

He also disclosed that several vehicles with Federal Government plate numbers transported people to the community, almost on daily basis, from different parts of the country for mining activities until the resolution to stop mining activities in the interim.

When NDV visited the community, one of the suspected strangers roaming around uncompleted buildings, said: “We came to work but they said work should stop so I am waiting for my brother to send money to me to go back.”

An official of a mining company, Macana, affected by the invasion, told our reporter that workers abandoned their site when they could not stop intruders from coming into their area of operation to avoid violent clashes.

“Our company got a licence to mine and in the process discovered gold, we have now sent a fresh application to get a licence for gold mining, but while awaiting response from the authorities, illegal miners have deliberately drifted into their area of operation apparently because of the gold,” he said. While awaiting restoration of normalcy and approval of its licence to mine gold, the company has reportedly, visited the community to work out mutual development contracts.

The traditional ruler of Dagbala, Okaku I of Dagbala, HRH Albert Okogbe Agbebaku was said to have agreed to summon a meeting of the elders’ council of the community and come up with their needs and demands and thereafter meet with the company to finalise the agreements.

The operating Officer of the company, Fatai Jimoh, said the illegal miners were robbing the Federal Government of the much needed revenue with their activities.

“The illegal miners have graduated from working without papers, while some with papers work in an area where they do not have jurisdiction or licence to mine gold or any mineral.

They parade fake licence to hoodwink security men when they are confronted.

“Our prospecting for minerals in Dagbala dated back to 2014 and from the geology of Akoko Edo, we felt that there is going to be a deposit of industrial minerals in the community. We did our paper work relying on the geology of Nigeria.

“With the consent from the owners of the land, we went to the mining office in Abuja to lodge an application for exploration licence, we got exploration Licence No: 18789, 18790 respectively.

“In 2016, we started the exploration and considering the huge work, our first two years on exploration was not easy, and between 2014 and 2016, we could not discover anything on the land and at the end of 2016, we discovered limestone deposit in exploration 18790, and in line with Mining Act, we immediately referred to the mining cadastral office by submitting an application for a new mineral title 25134 and it was granted approval that same year for a limestone deposit and we continued with our exploration. We use both scientific and manual methods.

“By the end of 2019, we got traces of gold deposit in the area, we were happy that having spent a lot of money trying to retain the deposit from 2014-2019, there is light but our joy was short-lived because at the beginning of 2020, we noticed high influx of persons into the place where we got the gold deposit.

“I reported the matter to the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in Benin in February, some illegal miners were arrested but they could not be detained because of Covid-19 pandemic.

“By July 2020, it became an all comers affair where we now have over 1,000 illegal miners. By this time, some persons in the community gave consent on our existing area to the illegal miners and all efforts of the security agencies to stop them failed.

Their illegal activities overwhelmed us all and they appeared stronger than everybody.

“They graduated from the use of hand and shovel to excavators and washing machine into our exploration licence site which is contrary to the Mining Act.

“Agreed, some of them were able to get licence for mining gold, but they got it on an area where there is no gold, what they have is fake licence to confuse and hoodwink securitymen they come across while they keep terrorising us on our own existing exploration licence,” he added.

Corroborating this position, a management staff of the company, Chief Daudu Omowumen, who is from neigbhouring Enwan community, said: “Suddenly, the population of the illegal miners increased, we carried out another raid and one Seidu was arrested. As we speak, they have hijacked the place from the legal miners. Even the MoU we signed was not respected.

“We wrote and sent a petition to the ministry and the EFCC. It was at the EFCC office that a decision was reached that we should go back to the community to resolve the matter among ourselves and that is why we came for this meeting,” he explained.

Contacted, the Zonal Mining Officer, ZMO, Abdulkadiri Adamu, asserted: “The truth is that there are some with genuine licences in the place. There are about five firms with licences. A licence for limestone is not the same as a licence for gold. I have advised anybody interested in mining gold to apply and obtain such licence from the ministry in Abuja.”

He said those carrying out illegal mining were community youths just as he absolved the ministry of any wrongdoing or aiding them.

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