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Ilesa Communities Where Miners Desecrate Land, Leave Residents In Ruins

Ilesa Communities Where Miners Desecrate Land, Leave Residents In Ruins
  • PublishedFebruary 11, 2024
  • Residents Lament Loss, Finger Politicians
  • Illegal Mining Is Injurious To Environment, Residents – Expert

Gold mining in Osun State, South West Nigeria, especially in the Ijesaland area of the state, has become a household thing, with almost every indigene and resident wanting to have their fair share.

Apart from the registered companies that mine gold in Osun and pay taxes and royalties to the government, local miners, many of whom operate illegally, have dominated the environment.

Some mining sites have been experiencing the uncoordinated activities of many illegal miners, many of whom have polluted the environment and left residents to bear the brunt. 

The government is also losing a huge sum of money to the menace of illegal miners operating in the state for several years.

Recently, the local miners have occupied some communities in Osun State, carrying out their operations without regard to the health and well-being of the people in those communities. 

Their actions have not only affected the environment but also caused hardship to residents of the host communities.

The negligence of the illegal miners has continued to harm the host communities, and as recently as last year, the Osun River was polluted through illegal mining activities in some parts of the state. 

Apart from water pollution, the local people also suffer the health impacts of mining in the absence of proper checks and balances from the appropriate quarters. 

Other adverse effects of illegal mining include climate change, deforestation and habitat destruction, pollution, soil erosion, human-wildlife conflict, and the loss of biodiversity.

  • Artisanal Miners Had Biometric Registration During Aregbesola’s Administration

Osun Defender reports that during the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the state carried out biometric registration for artisanal miners across the communities in the state.

A cross-section of the artisanal miners at work in 2018

The move was to curb the scourge of illegal mining in the state and ensure that all taxes and levies were paid to the government.

The intervention restored sanity to the process of exploring mineral resources in the state as well as curbing environmental degradation and importantly, increasing the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

The process also guaranteed adequate security around the mining communities by the government.

  • Communities Suffer, Risk Health Challenge Due To Illegal Mining 

Two of the communities where mining activities have caused damage to the residents are Oke Odo and Isale General Community in Ilesa. 

Oke Odo Community, Ido Ijesa, Ilesa is currently experiencing the activities of the local miners with parts of the community now taken over by the miners.

Residents of the community who spoke with Osun Defender lamented the negative impact the illegal mining activities have caused them.

The residents said the Chinese miners were the first to come to the community about three years ago but left without reclaiming the lands.

They said the local miners came back to the community to feast on the land that had already been damaged by the Chinese. 

Osun Defender reliably gathered that some federal government mining agencies visited the areas last June with security agencies. 

The miners were said to have fled the site during that period but came back some months later.

  • Situation At The Mining Sites

“You should have said Ayeni Foundation Hotel and Event Centre,” was the reply of the commercial motorcyclist Osun Defender reporter called to convey him to the community. 

“The hotel is popular. What are you going there to do, sir?” asked the too-inquisitive motorcyclist.

“I’m not going to the hotel. I have something to do in the community,” the reporter replied reluctantly, hoping the conversation would end there, but alas, the bike man talked again, but this time in a serious tone.

“I don’t know what you are going there for, but be careful of the thugs around the mining sites. They don’t like strangers too much,” the warning prepared the reporter more for the task ahead.

The reporter dropped in front of the hotel, paid the motorcyclist, and proceeded to the community. 

There was a house behind the hotel, and after the building, behold the mining site. The mining location to the main road is less than a kilometre away.

The medium observed some youths working on the mining site with some thugs stationed around the area.

One of the thugs, whom the others referred to as ‘Biggy’, asked what the reporter was doing with his phone as soon as he approached the area.

“Hello, what do you want? Do you also come here to record, or what are you doing with that phone? The big man asked. 

“Well done, brother; I am just in the community to see a friend of mine,” the reporter replied humbly and walked away. 

It was the same case at another mining site visited in the community, with some youths working on the site and thugs observing the area. 

  • Residents Lament, Finger Politicians

Residents of the area who spoke to Osun Defender lamented the damage done by the local miners to their community, attributing the menace to the involvement of some politicians and powerful people in the area.

The residents noted that some politicians gave the miners access to operate in the area because they were also receiving kickbacks. 

Footage showing the illegal mining operation in the Oke-Odo community of Ilesa in Osun State

According to them, the miners, after mining, left the land unrehabilitated and moved to another area.

Osun Defender moved to some of the abandoned land where mining had taken place in the community, and it was an eyesore.

Speaking with the medium, a community leader who does not want his name in print said the activities of the miners have caused concern for house owners in the community.

The community leader noted that some landlords in the area gave out their lands to the miners after collecting money without looking at the future consequences. 

He called on the state government to help the community, adding that the thugs used by the miners harassed residents.

“This is what we are facing in our community. Some landlords, without recourse to the health of the others, gave the miners their land, and after excavating and polluting the land, they left it unattended.

“The state government has to help the community. The effect of what is going on might not be there now. We’ve written ten series of letters to no effect. 

“We have it on good authority that some politicians are collecting money from these local miners and allowing them to mine in our community. Enough is enough.”

One of the youths in the community who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of being attacked said the local miners started operations in the community around August 2023.

He said residents of the area suffered a lot during the last rainy season due to the bastardisation of the lands by the miners. 

He added that the miners are now mining in residential areas without regard for the safety and health of the occupants of the area.

The residents lamented the damage the miners had done to their houses, farmland, and water, calling on the state government to find a way to take the miners out of their community. 

According to him, “These miners are now mining very close to residential areas, and by implication, it is affecting us. Our houses, the water we use, our farms, and our health are affected. 

“They started mining in this area around August last year, and they had already caused a lot of havoc. During the last rainy season, we suffered a lot in this community.”

Asked how the landowners ceded their land to the miners, the source said that once the miners paid the landowners money, they would be allowed to go ahead with their activities unchecked. 

“The problem is that most of the landlords do not know the danger attached to this illegal mining, and that is why we youth are saying enough is enough. They lured them with money, and the owners fell for it, not minding the consequences.

“We want to appeal to the state government and our royal fathers in Ijesaland to aid us. The activities of these miners have to stop. They cannot continue to endanger our lives because of their selfish gain.”

The medium was also at the Isale General Community, where the local miners had deformed some land, leaving residents of the community to suffer the consequences.

A resident of the community who identified himself as Olabiyi Hammed while speaking with Osun Defender said the local miners were re-mining lands that the Chinese companies had feasted on.

According to him, the Chinese came to the area in 2022 and left without redirecting the land they used for mining.

He added that the local miners came back to the community some months after the Chinese left to mine on the land, and in the process, they affected some buildings.

“The Chinese were the ones who initially deflowered the land and damaged it. After working on the land, they left without reclaiming it.

“Some months later, the local miners came back to feast on the land that had already been damaged by the Chinese and, in the process, affected some buildings.

“During the last rainy season, the mining areas were flooded, and houses near the mining sites were affected. I fear for those house owners, as we will soon approach another rainy season.”

A widow, Chief Alice Coker, while narrating her ordeal at the hands of the miners, told Osun Defender that her son lost his business because of the damage caused by the miners. 

According to her, she loaned the sum of N500,000 to her son to boost his fish farming business, but the business went into the drain due to the pollution of the water by the miners. 

Chief Coker lamented that some of the people in charge of managing the miners in the area were not sincere, adding that her plea to return her lands to their normal state after mining on them went on deaf ears. 

She said, “I am a widow with no one to fight for me. I had three lands I was using to farm before the Chinese came and mined them. They promised to return the land to normal before leaving, but they didn’t. 

“I complained to those who brought the Chinese, and they warned me to stay calm because the miners are still coming back, but till now, I haven’t seen anyone.

“My son is into fish farming. I went to loan him N500,000 for him to assist his business. He dug a pond on one of the lands, but after the Chinese left, the water got polluted with lead, and all the fish died. My son couldn’t do the business again. 

“I know God owns everything, and the land they destroyed was nothing, but the issue is that the miners have polluted the water to the extent that it is not safe to use again.”

  • Mining Is Harmful in Local Areas – NGO

According to Eco Defenders Network, a non-governmental organization, residents of mining areas are negatively impacted by hazardous mining activities in the short and long term. As a result, the residents are urged not to give up their land to miners without proper agreement.

Speaking with Osun Defender, the organisation’s coordinator, Shehu Akowe, stated that the chemicals used to extract gold contaminated the Osun River, which is directly connected to other rivers in the nation. He further stated that the water is unsafe to drink due to the miners’ activities.

He appealed to the government to call to order those destroying the environment in the name of mining. 

“Cyanide toxicity affects human health, and the environmental impact cannot be overemphasised. Spills from hazardous chemicals have resulted in major fish kills, contaminated drinking water supplies, and harm to agricultural lands. 

“It is crucial to mention that both our underground and surface waters are unsafe in an environment where highly hazardous chemicals like cyanide are used in gold extraction. The polluted rivers, including the Osun River, are unsafe. 

“I want to appeal to the governments to caution those destroying people’s lands for their selfish gains. We are not saying they shouldn’t mine, but when mineral resources are valued at the expense of people’s lives and their livelihoods, that should not be left unquestioned.”