The Niger mines tragedy

Media report last week to the effect that dozens of gold miners were trapped underground after a pit collapsed in Galadima Kogo, Shiroro local government area of Niger state is, indeed, quite worrisome.

The incident happened penultimate Monday after heavy rainfall in Niger state but news was slow to emerge because of the nationwide strike by the organised labour, which was suspended on Tuesday.

Niger State Emergency Service Agency spokesman Hussaini Ibrahim said that one person had been confirmed dead and they think over 30 people were still trapped as rescue efforts continue.

Officials believe the collapse was caused by the torrential rains which softened the soil.

“As at this morning (Wednesday) we believe over 30 people are still trapped, we can’t give you exact figures because even those on site didn’t know,” said Mr Ibrahim.

“One person has been confirmed dead and six persons were rescued and rushed to the hospital.”

He said that four excavators and rescue workers were at the scene trying to help those trapped.

The Minister of Solid Minerals Dele Alake saidofficials of the Mines Inspectorate had been sent to mining site in Galadima Kogo.

“Rest assured, we will investigate the causes of the disaster to prevent a recurrence and ensure the safety of all Nigerians,” he said in a statement.

Niger state is known as a hotbed of activity by criminal gangs who kidnap people for ransom.

Last year, mining activities were banned in the Shiroro area, where the mines collapsed, along with neighbouring districts, due to insecurity and safety concerns.

The state official said extra security had been provided to ensure that rescue workers were not abducted.

Mining accidents are not uncommon in Nigeria with many involving illegal miners going unreported.

In January, a deadly blast which rocked Ibadan, killing two people and injuring 77 others, was said to be from explosives stored by illegal miners.

The Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the mining company, Ibrahim Ishaku, was among those who were trapped in the collapsed pit.
Mr Ishaku was feared dead, according to Yakubu Garba, Desk Officer for Mining in Shiroro local government area, who was at the scene of the incident on Monday.

It was further gathered that while manual rescue operation was ongoing, another portion of the mining pit caved in, forcing the rescuers to abandon the rescue operation and run for their lives.
Abdullahi Arah, the director-general of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), said the collapse was caused by a downpour which softened the soil.

The minister said the swift rescue action was a demonstration of the commitment of the government to mitigate the adverse impact of the incident and rescue those still trapped in the rubble. “Upon learning of the incident, we mobilised our Federal Mines Officer (FMO) and officials of the Mines Inspectorate to the site.

“In collaboration with the mining company, we have rescued seven victims, some with injuries. Rescue operations with excavators are ongoing to ensure we avert loss of lives,” he said.

According to the statement, the minister recently announced a policy on the mandatory arrangements of remedial measures for mining pits as part of the criteria for applying for mining licences.

The move was aimed at minimising incidents such as the collapse of the mining site in Niger.

It is instructive to note that the House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Solid Minerals to investigate the collapsed mining site incident at Galadiman Kogo.

The committee is also expected to unravel the operational eligibility of Africa Minerals and Logistics Company Limited, the mining company which moaned the site, and also to find out the underlying causes of the incident as well as review current mining safety regulations.

Also in the resolution on Thursday, the House called on the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals to deploy more emergency response specialists to the mining site, as it observed a minute of silence in honour of the lost lives.

This resolution was a fallout of a motion of urgent public importance, sponsored by Hon. Ismail Musa Modibo, who drew attention of the House to “the distressing incident on Monday, June 3, 2024, where 100 miners working with a mining entity, Africa Minerals and Logistics Company Limited, were tragically trapped within a rocky mining pit”.

He noted that all efforts to rescue the victims were in vain, necessitating immediate federal intervention, admitting that there was the presence of both state and federal distress response teams at the site.

He stressed the need for the deployment of more special rescue experts to the site to prevent more loss of lives, as he expressed worries that lack of adequate safety measures and emergency equipment by the mining companies may have led to the unfortunate incident. 

Blueprint is miffed by the wanton breach of environmental regulation and safety laws, particularly those caused by illegal miners in the country. While we commend the proactive response of rescue workers, we frown on the poor enforcement of the guidelines and regulations on mining. Consequently, all those indicted for this tragedy must be prosecuted and convicted, accordingly.