By Alam Johnpaul Ifeanyi
The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has inaugurated the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the hosting of the second International Conference on Lead poisoning associated with Artisanal and Small -Scale Mining in the country.
The conference which will draw participants from different mining nations is scheduled for June and it will focus specifically on prevention.
Participants would include local and International experts with diverse areas of specialization to contribute to finding relevant solutions to the multi-sectoral nature of lead poisoning in Nigeria.
The Minister of State for Mines and steel Development, Hon Abubakar Bawa Bwari, while speaking at the event said, drew attention to the sad and unprecedented outbreak of lead poisoning which occurred in Zamfara State in 2010, with about 500 casualties, mainly children.
He stated that the cause of the ugly incident was attributed to the activities of Artisinal gold miners in the area who employed unwholesome gold ore processing methods at homes and village squares where children become exposed to lead laden dusts.
Hon Abubakar said it took a combined efforts of different international agencies, including the Medecins San Frontires (MSF), the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, World health Organisation (WHO), TerraGraphics Engineering, the government of Zamfara State and the Federal Government of Nigeria to curb the incident.
“It has been discovered that recontamination of previously remediated areas is going on at present. This is coupled with the growing cases of children not responding to treatment which has necessitated the need for workable safer mining programmes to prevent reoccurrence”, the Minister added.
The Minister stated that the inaugurated LOC, a 14-member committee with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu and Paul Arumah, Head of mission, MSF as co-chairs, are tasked with many responsibilities, including: Execute planning, organization and implementation of the conference; work out the conference content as well as form Technical sub-committee to develop invitation and time table to ensure that local, national, international and interdisciplinary perspectives are adequately represented.
Other memebers of the committee include Project Coordinator, Mindiver, Executive Secretary Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF), five directors from the Ministry, Representatives of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Health, Labour, UNIDO, WHO, Global Rights, representatives of the governments of Zamfara and Niger states and the Nigerian Immigration Service.
The minister urged them to devote their utmost attention and energy to ensure that the objectives of the conference are realized.
Earlier, the Director of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining , Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Patrick Ojeka, disclosed that the the federal government in collaboration with Zamfara and Niger State governments, MSF and other international bodies have carried out an intervention programme that mitigated the escalation of led poisoning in the country.
He said MFS has established a pilot project in collaboration with the Ministry to focus on the prevention of the re-occurrence of the problem in the country.
The permanent Secretary and co-chair of the committee, Dr Abdulkadir Muazu in his speech, said that led poisoning is preventable adding that the committee will ensure that the objectives of the international conference on lead poisoning are achieved.
Head of MSF, Mr Philip Aruna, who is also a co-chair of the committee, said he has been working with the Ministry from the onset of the problem to address lead poisoning, adding that prevention remained the sure way forward in addressing lead poisoning in Nigeria.