Over the last six months, over 400 children under the age of 5 have died as a result of environmental contamination caused by gold extraction in northern Nigeria.
Mercury, which is commonly used in the gold extraction processes, can pollute the air, water, and soil if not properly monitored, and affects the nervous and digestive systems when inhaled.
At one former mine processing site in the village of Bagega, with some 8,000 inhabitants, air mercury levels were registered, a hundred times the maximum recommended (AllAfrica.com).
Since the beginning of the year, Doctors Without Borders workers have noticed a spike in the number of lead-related illnesses and deaths in several villages of the Zamfara state where toxic run-off from illegal gold mining has entered the soil and water supply (TerraDaily).
Locals, including women and children, are regularly recruited to participate in the poorly regulated processing of lead-rich ore to extract the gold.
Because these operation are often so close to their homes, workers sometimes attempt to illegally extract gold from he lead-contaminated soils in and around their houses and compounds. This directly exposes children and infants to the harmful substance which does irreparable damage to their neurological systems.
A UN-WHO report that’s due to be published later this month claims that the list of polluted villages is stilll growing, with signs of recontamination evident in some villages that have already been been cleaned up by US-based environmental firms.
Despite the shocking results of the UN’s fact finding mission, it’s rumored that the report will recommend that mining operations be banned, but simply that “safer practices” should be enacted to protect nearby villages.
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Image Credit: NigerianInquirer.com