In Jos, Continued Violence is Driving More Women and Children to Illegal Mining

Despite the risks associated with artisanal mining, more women and children are taking up jobs at mining pits that litter communities in Jos. This is due to the government’s failure to curb violence in the state. In this report, Beloved John documents how the prolonged violence has deprived the people of other means of livelihood, pushing them to search for survival in different mining sites.

From a distance, the mining site in Weregn, a borderland between Jos South and Barkin Ladi local government areas, resembles a colony of bees on a honeycomb. A constant flow of miners enter and exit the site, carrying headpans, shovels, and old Bagco bags. They are mining for tin, and once in a while, the sounds of revving motorcycles are heard. If one moves closer, one sees the miners in clusters working on different mining shafts on a perforated ground.

The mining roles are shared between groups at each pit: the men digging deeper into the ground, the boys behind scooping a mixture of sand and tin dust into drums, the women who wheel the drum out.

There are no days off at mining sites, and it is for this reason that Mama Wisdom, as she is fondly addressed, chooses to work six times a week. Although it seems unlikely that a seventh-day rest suffices, from the forlorn expression on her face.

At 11 am, she, and the three women at her mine pit, have extracted seven drums of sand from a hole more than 12 ft deep. This is her first day at the border mining site, although work here began more than one week ago. Before now, she worked at a mining site in Gada Biu, and before then, in Kwat village, Bakin Ladi. Working as a miner means moving to the next site, once a land becomes barren or too unsafe. There’s always tension. From the fear of being attacked by armed men in the thick of the forest or an arrest.

“But one must eat even if it means enduring the most arduous task,” said Mama Wisdom to WikkiTimes.

Although artisanal mining poses many risks for the state, miners, and the land they mine, persistent violence in the state is leading to a surge in the population of miners. Numerous women and children in the state, driven by desperation and the struggle for survival, are turning to mining for sustenance.

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The crisis plaguing the Middle Belt city has lasted for decades as competition for scarce resources intensified alongside ethnic rivalry and struggles for political control. Violence in Jos broke out with the infamous 2001 clash, which caused the death of more than a thousand people and degenerated after this, spreading to rural areas outside the city.

The violence caused by the conflict between the Berom (mainly Christian) farmers and Fulani (mainly Muslim) pastoralists is considered to have a religious undertone.

But according to Human Rights Watch, the Jos Crisis, in reality, is ‘more political and economic than religious.’ It stemmed from a longstanding battle for control of political power and economic rivalry between different ethnic groups and between those labeled as ‘indigenous’ or ‘non-indigenous’ inhabitants of the area.

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Several attacks in the state can be traced back to the communal conflict between the farming communities and herders, and have led to the displacement of more than 15,000 people, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC).

But as the years passed, the crisis mirrored that of other states in North West and North Central. Plateau became increasingly terrorised by bandit militias operating from bases deep in forests, raiding villages, killing and displacing locals. Over 50,000 people have been killed in the past 20 years. 

According to the Plateau State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), more than 38,000 IDPs are taking refuge in 31 IDP camps across the state,

It was one of those attacks that forced Mama Wisdom out of her home in Kwi village, an area now deserted, to Marabar Faron, Barkin Ladi LGA in 2019.

Mama Wisdom sitting on the ground at the Weregn mining site narrating her experience

Although the 34-year-old said she barely recalls the details of the incident, she knew that it had occurred on a random Sunday afternoon when she was preparing lunch in her kitchen while her husband and kids were in the living room. She remembers the sounds of gunshots, the cries of terrified villagers from a distance, and the terror in the eyes of her children.

“They had raided other communities and were coming into mine,” she said. “Everything happened so fast. We ran into the bush and hid till the next morning. But we couldn’t go back to our home. They had burnt everything, and we feared that they might return.”


Left with no option, the family moved in with a relative who lived in Marabar Faron, Barkin Ladi LGA. Mama Wisdom described the first two weeks as the longest and coldest.

“We had nothing. No job, no money, no house overnight,” she says. We could barely afford to feed. In my life, I never imagined I’d live like that or like I do now. I think about the sudden twist of my fate, and I feel like crying,” she said.

It was in Marabar Faron, that the mother of four, and her husband, were introduced to mining and have grown to be dependent on it. 

A group of women wheeling out a drum of sand from one of the numerous mining pits

Besides the risks, the laws governing mining in Nigeria prohibit mining by any person without a mining lease or certification. According to the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007, engaging in mining activities without the appropriate licences or permits constitutes illegal mining. But illegal mining remains a major problem in the country, creating environmental damages, economic losses, and fuelling insecurity in some states. Nigeria loses more than $9 billion dollars to illicit mining annually. 

So far, efforts to clampdown the activity have failed, owing to extreme poverty and unemployment, even in Plateau which has high tin ore and columbite deposits. 

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The displacement of people and continued disruption of businesses is driving more locals, especially women and children, into illicit mining. 

Many of the women who spoke to WikkiTimes have each suffered a devastating loss from the recurring attacks; some were forced to leave their home, others suffered a setback in their businesses or lost farmlands to armed men. 


Felicia Keneth, a petite, 25-year-old mother of two, wasn’t displaced, but her farmlands were seized when gunmen took over a part of Weregn village, 5km away from the mining site. The area was mostly used for farming, and Felicia had two farms there on which she planted maize.

When the bandits seized control of the area, they took over all the farmlands, barring Felicia and others from accessing their farms. WikkiTimes learned that the bandits seized about 65 farms, and the incident, which is now a year old, affected more than 40 farmers in the village.

“No one can go into that area, and the government won’t help us reclaim our farms. I had to find another means of livelihood, and this was what I found. I barely make enough money, but it beats having nothing at all,” she said.

Felicia Kenneth, an artisanal miner in Jos South LGA

WikkiTimes asked if the locals received support from the state government to reduce the hardships they suffered after the incident. The miners all said no.

“Most of us did not receive anything from the government. No food, no assistance, nothing. What have they ever done? Everyone has to take care of themselves. Find a place to put your head, and find food for your children by any means possible,” said Danjuma Blessings, a displaced woman working at the mine.

According to Zang Kefas, a youth leader in Jos South, the failure of security officials to curtail insecurity in the state caused the rise in the population of illegal miners in the state. Kefas, who voluntarily supervises the work of the miners for safety, described the security officials as complicit in the actions of the gunmen terrorizing the state.

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“The security men are slow to action. These criminals could be attacking an area for days, and there won’t be an attempt to repel them. Their hideouts are an open secret, but there has been no arrest. Nothing significant has been done to protect the people. We have the police, the military, and civil defence officials here, but still, there’s no difference.

“The government has also been silent. Largely inactive as regards the issue. No palliatives or financial aid is provided for victims of the crisis,” said Kefas, his face flushed with fury.

WikkiTimes made multiple attempts to get the reaction of the state police commission, but the PRO, Alfred Alabo, did not respond to calls or text messages.


At the mining site in Weregn, children, in a spectrum of ages, surround the shafts, occupied with labour. The younger ones help with the wheels; others, mostly boys between the ages of 15 and 17, join the miners beneath the ground. They pour the mixture of mud and tin ore into drums that are wheeled out at intervals.

The boys have learned of accidents likely to occur at a mining site but feel obliged to work at the mining sites owing to their circumstances.

Jethro Barnabas, a 16-year-old artisanal miner, knows that the rod attached to the wheels to pull out sand from the pit can inflict an injury so lethal the victim would be bedridden for weeks.

16-year-old Jethro Barnabas from Bakin Ladi LGA, who works at the mining site in Weregn

He, like many other children, understands why mining pits collapse; that a lot of pits connect underneath because the miners dig in the direction where tin ore is spotted, and so create a chasm beneath the surface. The young miner has heard stories of boys his age dying in mining pits as a result. He has also seen people sustaining injuries from a mining site but can only contain his anxiety and work with his mother at the mine.

“She makes more money because I work here too. Sometimes, when the men are done with work, my friends and I dig further to get our own tin that we can sell and make more money,” he explained gently.

 A mining pit

While there is no data on the death toll, there have been numerous reports of incidents at mining sites. For instance, 5 artisanal miners died, and 8 others were injured after a mining pit caved in January 2023. Between August and September, the same year, over 33 miners died owing to collapses at mining sites. Mining accidents in which multiple deaths occurred were also reported in 2017 and  2018.

A great source of concern for Jethro is the possibility of an attack on the site which seemed likely given its proximity with bandit-controlled terrains. 

“There’s fear that they could attack this place, there are so many people here and they control the inner part of Weregn. They could attack. I think about it and it scares me.”


WikkiTimes also observed the presence of numerous nursing mothers, who have their babies wrapped in thick materials and strapped to their backs throughout the day, and heavily pregnant women at the mine working as labourers. The women are mainly busy sieving tin, washing away excess particles until the dark metallic mineral lusters, then they spread it out under the sun to dry. At times, they also engage with potential buyers who come to the mine directly from the miners.

Victoria Barnabas, Jethro’s mother, is one of these women. She works at the mine with her 5-month-old baby, whom she has to treat for colds often as a result of the weather. Victoria worked as a miner while she was heavily pregnant, and only rested for a month after childbirth. 

“If I decide to stay at home because I am pregnant, how will I eat and care for the other children? I am responsible for them too,” she explained. The 45-year-old mother lost her business to the crisis, which involved the supply of fruit to retailers, and adopted mining as a means to survival. 

Anita John, a pregnant miner, calls the heavy presence of women at the site proof of the people’s growing desperation. 

“We are suffering, really suffering and that’s why you have many of us here. If not, why would I be here under the sun occupied with such a task? How much do I earn here?” Anita queried, speaking directly to no one.

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According to Da Gyang Dudu Dalyop, President of the Berom Educational and Cultural Organisation (BECO), the insecurity in Jos has increased poverty and the vulnerability of women and children. 

He explained to WikkiTimes that the situation has taken a toll on women, by disrupting their daily lives and exposing them to heightened risks. 

“When a person is forced out of their home, their source of income is destroyed. They will turn to whatever is available. And that is the situation of these women. As it is, they can’t be bothered about childbirth and pregnancy. All that matters is survival,” he said.

Daylop added that, “The places often attacked are not border communities. These are communities in the urban area or close by. Yet, security agencies cannot seem to curtail the crisis. These officials are compromised, they know how to stop the raid of communities, if they choose.”


WikkiTimes reached out multiple times to the state Commissioner of Information, Musa Ibrahim Ashoms,  but he did not pick up any of his calls or respond to the text message sent to him.

Also, WikkiTimes contacted the spokesperson of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nanko Jonah, over a phone call. She asked to be contacted later but did not respond to calls after that. 

However, a security analyst and researcher, Senator Iroegbu, describes the state government’s response to the crisis as poor and uncoordinated actions that have failed to yield results. 

“Government response to the crisis in the state has been discouraging. There’s been a lack of political will to address the challenge plaguing this state. Whenever there’s an attack, they just conduct a meeting and announce that they have sent a task force over to restore peace but nothing concrete is done,” he said.

Iroegbu, who is the Editor-in-chief of Global Sentinel, an online magazine focused on security reportage, noted that the state and federal governments are both failing at their primary responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the residents. 

“The result is the creation of a vulnerable community which becomes willing to work as illegal miners to make ends meet,” he said.

“It has also fed into the illegal mining activity because if you check those areas where you have these conflicts, there are lots of illegal mining or artisanal mining going on.

“The perpetrators benefit from this by mining in controlled areas. While these crises are tagged communal clashes or farmers-herders crises, this problem seems to only exist in states rich in minerals in the North West and North Central region,” he added.

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


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