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Brigadier General Jeremiah Faransa (Rtd), the Chairman of the Task Force.

Brigadier General Jeremiah Faransa (Rtd), the Chairman of the Task Force.

In a remarkable crackdown on illegal mining operations within Taraba State, the Taraba State Special Task Force on Environmental Protection and Illegal Mining has successfully recovered a staggering 22,373 kilograms of blue sapphire and other precious gemstones. This decisive action has not only safeguarded the state’s invaluable natural resources but also led to the apprehension of more than 100 illegal miners, including foreign nationals, over the past two months.

Brigadier General Jeremiah Faransa (Rtd), the Chairman of the Task Force, disclosed that this substantial cache of sapphire was concealed in Mayo Sena, located in Taraba State’s Sardauna Local Government Area. The illegal miners were apprehended at various locations across the state, shedding light on the extensive reach of their illicit activities.

General Faransa expressed profound concern regarding the severe damage inflicted on the state’s environment by both legal and illegal mining operations. This includes the indiscriminate felling of rosewood trees, often referred to as Madrid. To address this grave issue, an Executive Order has been enacted, suspending all mining and logging activities within the state. General Faransa issued a stern warning to those involved in such activities to immediately cease their operations.

He further lamented the degradation of Taraba State’s arable lands due to unregulated mining, which has led to some communities abandoning farming altogether. The impact has been so severe that farming, a vital livelihood for many, has become unsustainable in certain regions of the state.

Moreover, General Faransa criticized the exploitation of young individuals as low-cost labor within the mining industry, resulting in a concerning rise in the number of school dropouts. He revealed, “Over 20,000 individuals, both legal and illegal, are engaged in mining activities in Taraba State. Illegitimate miners often masquerade as laborers under legitimate mining companies.”

One particularly distressing example was observed in the Arufu and Akwana communities of the Wukari Local Government Area. General Faransa described the dire situation, stating, “What we saw is a sad tale. These communities have been excavated and destroyed by the activities of both legal and illegal miners. The land in these communities is no longer suitable for farming or even building. They have now abandoned farming completely, and every household in these communities has turned to mining.”

Additionally, he highlighted the concerning exploitation of teenagers in Dogon Yasu by mining companies, who employ them as inexpensive labor. “When we interviewed most of them, we discovered that they are being given N500 or N1000 a day. And that is why you see that there is an increase in the number of dropouts in Northern Nigeria,” General Faransa expressed, underscoring the urgency of addressing this issue.

General Faransa emphasized that the state is not opposed to legitimate investments in the mining sector. Instead, their primary concern lies in ensuring due diligence and robust environmental protection measures are in place to safeguard Taraba State’s precious natural resources for future generations.