How Unregulated Sand Mining, Quarry Activities Devastate Kano Communities

In this investigation, WikkiTimes looks into the devastating impact of sand mining and quarry activities on communities in Kano State, particularly in Tassa, Ruggu, and Rimingado. The activities have caused residents widespread environmental degradation, health challenges, and socioeconomic problems.

For over 15 years, residents of Tassa and Ruggu villages in Dawakin Kudu and Kura Local Government Areas (LGAs) and Rimingado LGA have been battling the effects of sand mining and quarry activities.

The community is rich in mineral resources, including sand, which is illegally exploited by corporations, individuals, and government entities. Thousands of hectares of farmland have been taken over by sand mining activities, affecting the livelihoods of many farmers.

Rabi’u Audu from Ruggu village in Kura local government lost his ancestral farmlands to sand mining.

“Sixteen people used to earn a living from this land, but now you can’t even see the borders of the land; they have been consumed by the site. I used to be able to afford to send my six children to school, but ever since I lost the farm, I had to pull them out of school. Now the girls have to go hawking in the market, and no compensation was given to us for the farm,” he said.

Dahiru Garba of Ruggu village, a champion of farmers’ rights, lamented how they fought for their rights in court but lost, pushing him into abject poverty.

“We tried our best to stop them from consuming our lands, but the village head said we had no option but to give them the land. They didn’t give us any compensation for it. I lost my source of livelihood for over 30 years in the blink of an eye.”

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The story is the same for most people of Ruggu who have lost their livelihood, and their neighbours in Tassa have no access to clean water. Most of their wells and boreholes have dried up due to the mining activities leading them to resort to long queues to fetch water for daily use.

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Frustration simmered in the communities. Petitions to government agencies like the Kano State Ministry of Environment and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) yielded little.

Investigations confirmed the environmental damage, with reports noting the land had been “heavily degraded” and the water level “apparently low due to the mining activities.” Yet, the mining continued.

In another report, the Hadejia-Jama’are River Basin Development Authority noted that the sand mining had tampered with the river embankments and eroded a large part of it.

“The water table of the area became low due to the mining activities hence reducing the irrigation activity and the ecosystem as a whole,” it said.

The federal agency thus suggested that the authorities concerned stop the said mining activities, noting its damaging effects on the welfare of the communities around the areas. But all their efforts were in vain as the mining is still in progress affecting their livelihood.

“We sent complaints to all the relevant agencies,” Abdulwahab Tsoho, one of the affected farmers revealed, “but nobody is willing to lift a finger to help because there are government actors that also own dredging machines and mine in the site.”

Powerful Figures Behind It

Whispers that powerful figures invested in the activities fueled the sense of helplessness. Barrister Habibullah Ahmad Muhammad, the spokesman for the farmers’ group and their lawyer, echoed this sentiment: “Efforts to stop the mining were blocked at every turn because of personal interest.”

Barrister Habibullah Ahmad Muhammad said some of the miners were not legally registered as provided by the law to conduct mining activities.

More so, it is illegal to mine without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); and even when you have it and these environmental problems evolve, it must be stopped. You also cannot be allowed to mine without a plan to return the place to what it was before the mining.”

He further narrated how efforts to stop the mining were blocked at every turn because of personal interest.

“We have reports from investigations by relevant agencies clearly showing the harmful impact of these activities, we have sat down one one-on-one with the stakeholders, we have tried this case in court, a committee to look into this issue was formed by the Ganduje administration at one point yet we couldn’t achieve the simple task because certain politician and office holder have also invested in the site and they want to protect their interests.”

Water Sources Drying Up

The devastation wasn’t limited to lost crops. The sand mining had lowered the water table, leaving wells dried up and forcing residents to rely on a dwindling number of boreholes.

“We used to have ample water, but now the wells have dried up,” lamented Rabi’atu Shitu, a mother of five forced to struggle for their daily water needs.

Child Labour

Children, burdened by the weight of lost income and a bleak future, were abandoning school to work in the sand mines, lured by the promise of daily wages with children as young as 12 years old working in the sand mining pits to earn money.

Despite the provision of the Child Rights Act, the current economic reality has ensured that children have no other alternatives than to quit school and join the labour force.

Dayyabu Adamu, one of the young children the reporter met at the site, said, “He goes to school in the morning to appease his parents, but the minute the final bell rings he rushes straight to the site to work as a runner for the miners.”

“I make N2,000 to N3,000 daily working here, I don’t understand why my parents keep insisting I shouldn’t leave school like my friends, when they don’t even give me 100 Naira to buy food during break when I go,” Khalid, a 14-year-old, said, “I supply fuel to the engines, and at the end of the day, they pay me N1,000. I help out my parents with the money, buy clothes and shoes for myself, and save the rest for a rainy day.”

A child fetching water from the contaminated dam at Rimingado community.

The Child Rights Act of 2003 stated, “No child shall be subjected to forced or exploitative labour, or servitude, or be exposed to hazardous conditions of work that are injurious to his physical, mental, or educational development.

“No child shall be employed in any capacity except where he is granted an exemption by the Minister for Education, and only if the child is above 15 years of age and the employment is not hazardous to the health, safety, or morals of the child.

Children working on the field at Tassa sand mining field.

“Every employer shall ensure that no child is employed in any capacity that is injurious to the child’s physical, mental, or educational development.”

These sections aim to protect children from child labour, ensure their safety and well-being, and promote their education and development.

Mining Activities Causing Severe Environmental Impact

The farmers also said the mining activities did not only affect their farmlands but also worsened their economic status and caused environmental hazards.

The Secretary of Tassa Site Farmers Cooperative Union, Abdulwahab Tsoho Adamu, lamented over their plight, saying that all their efforts to stop the mining activities proved abortive as more and more people were losing their farms.

“We have sent complaints to all the relevant agencies, but no one is willing to lift a finger to help because there are government actors who also own dredging machines and mine in the site,” he said.

In Rimingado local government, the issue is different but has the same ending. A major stone quarry a mile away from the Rimingado dam, a major water source for the residents, has turned the water into a deep green color, and the amount of water in the dam has reduced drastically.

Aishatu Abdulrashid Rimingado passionately pleaded for the government to provide an alternative water source for them.

“I had no option but to drink the water, and I ended up regretting it. I was so dehydrated because I lost so much fluid due to diarrhoea; I suffered for five days straight. The doctor told me never to drink it again, but I have no option; I use alum to purify it, but it’s not enough,” she said.

Abba Ibrahim Chiroma, the traditional ruler of Rimingado local government, said he has no doubt the contamination is 80% responsible for polluting the water, but he also said the people rearing animals also use the water for their animals to drink and bathe, contributing to the contamination.

Dust particles emanating from Rimingado Quarry site settling on water

“Thousands of people could benefit from the dam if properly managed; we need the responsible officials to step in and take measures to ensure the quarry activities do not contaminate the water because as long as this company keeps operating, it will keep wreaking havoc on the environment,” he said.

Ismail Idrees, one of the village elders, said the pollution is not the only issue; the blasting of the rock causes serious harm as well.

“Whenever they blast the rock, you feel the doors and windows rattle and shake as if there is an earthquake, I am over 70 years old and my heart isn’t as strong as it used to be.”

Despite efforts by the Watershed, Erosion, and Climate Change Management Agency (KN-WECCMA) to launch awareness campaigns and enforce a stoppage of illegal mining activities, the damage continues.

Dr Muhammad S Khalil, the Executive Secretary, expressing concerns, said, “Human activities are mostly the major cause of environmental issues.”

He announced plans for collaboration with the police to stop illegal mining and assess the damage. “We will not sit idle as a few destroy the environment.”

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When asked what measures they intend to take to correct the damage, Dr Khalil said, “Once we stop the menace we will map out all erosion sites in the state and make efforts to restore and reclaim the land as it is at risk of causing erosion.”

He said he was not aware of the issue the quarry in Rimingado is causing but he will surely dispatch a team to investigate the possible water pollution and devise a strategy to curtail it.

Yammawa and Son Nigeria Ltd, a mining firm registered with the CAC, and Sani Musa Tamburawa, an established local miner, actively operate in the Tassa-Ruggu region.

However, on the Integrated Automation and Interactive Solid Minerals Portal (IAISMP), the company only has a Small Scale Mining Lease which expired 20th of August, 2020. Meaning: that the company has been operating without a license for over four years now.

For Monkey Rocks Quarry, has been operational in Rimingado for close to a decade, the company was registered with the CAC in 2015 and is owned by foreign nationals namely; Shicai Li, Long Lin, Shijin Li, Shicai Lin, Long Lin, Shijin Li. There was no email or phone number listed in their registration.

Legal provisions, such as the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, require environmental impact assessments and adherence to environmental standards for mining operations, yet enforcement remains challenging.

Local groups in Dawakin Kudu, Kura, and Rimingado continue to fight against the havoc left behind by the mining companies.

As the crisis continues, the affected communities are calling on the state and federal governments to take decisive action to stop the harmful practices and protect their environment, health, and livelihoods.

This report is produced with support from Civic Media Lab (CML).


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