Despite the federal government’s ban and strict regulations, illegal mining operations continue to flourish in the North East region of Nigeria. These activities have worsened the existing security challenges in the region, with active mining presence in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe states. However, the mining sites in Borno have heavy security deployed to prevent illegal activities.
In Taraba, illegal miners are taking advantage of the difficult terrain in areas such as Sardauna, Yorro, Gashaka, Bali, and Takum local government areas. Precious stones, including gold and sapphire, are being mined in remote and inaccessible locations.
A miner, speaking anonymously, stated that their operations are conducted at night in hard-to-reach areas, making it challenging for the task force against illegal mining and other security agents to enforce the ban. The state government has established a task force against illegal mining, which has made arrests and closed down illegal mining sites.
According to an official of the state government, the illegal mining activities result in significant financial losses for the government annually. The source emphasized the need for effective monitoring and surveillance, including the use of helicopters, to combat illegal mining.
In Adamawa, illegal mining of copper, lithium, aluminium, monozide, and iron is taking place in various local government areas. Gemstones and guza are mined in Michika and Guyuk, while diamond mining occurs in Toungo, which shares a border with Gembu in Taraba State. The mining activities also involve the exploitation of copper, lithium, and iron in other area.
Chinese nationals and foreigners, including white men and individuals from N’djamena, Chad Republic, are reportedly involved in the mining industry in the region. The mined raw minerals are often smuggled out of the country through border areas in Borno State.
Illegal mining activities are concentrated in Fune and Fika local government areas of Yobe State. Gypsum and other precious stones are being illegally mined, mainly by underage boys and girls. While there have been no reports of attacks on miners in the region, the activities contribute to environmental degradation.
In Gombe State, illegal mining occurs in Gamawa, Jauro Sale, Tukulma, and Tulmi areas. The state government has banned illegal mining to prevent the escalation of banditry in the state. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has made arrests of individuals involved in illegal mining activities.
In Bauchi State, illegal miners are active in Toro, Alkaleri, Ningi, and Tafawa Balewa local government areas. Tin ore, gold, columbite, and other minerals are mined in multiple sites, with Nahuta mining site becoming a security concern due to criminal activities associated with it. Illegal mining activities have also led to armed robbery and banditry in affected communities.
The Borno State House of Assembly has raised an alarm over the security threat posed by illegal mining in various communities. The state government and agencies have been directed to halt illegal mining activities. Experts in the sector have expressed concerns about the involvement of foreigners in the mining activities, highlighting the need for better regulation of the industry.
The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, has accused powerful Nigerians of being behind the illegal mining activities and acts of terrorism in the country. He emphasized the need for a formal structure in the mining sector, similar to the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Ltd, to generate sufficient revenue. Alake also stated that state governments do not have the authority to regulate mining activities and that bans imposed by states are illegal and unconstitutional. He urged states to follow the proper licensing process if they wish to engage in mining activities.