In the dusty fields of Zamfara State in Nigeria’s northwest, locals have since the early 1900s dug the soil for gold, extracting specks of the metal from tons of rocks. The mines in Maru, Anka, and Malele are among the most important.
While global gold production has risen in the last two decades, Zamfara’s mines have mostly been mined illegally. The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development suggests that, between 2016 and 2018, smugglers stole 18 tonnes of gold, worth N353 billion ($1.16 billion).
In 2010, there was an outbreak of lead poisoning in the state, harming children whose fathers came home from gold mining with traces of the element. Another fallout of the illegal mining has been the deaths of up to 5,000 people at the hands of bandits. In 2019, the situation forced the Nigerian government to ban gold mining in the state. The ban has since been lifted.
With the deposits in Kebbi, Niger, Osun, and Kwara States, as well as in the Federal Capital Territory, the federal government, which is supporting mining through the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI), suggests that Nigeria’s reserve could reach 200 million ounces. Observers estimate that Zamfara’s gold, if its mining were reformed, could generate up to $2 billion annually.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.