Zamfara State, Nigeria — MININGREVIEW.COM — 01 November 2011 – Illegal gold mining has left at least 2,000 children suffering from lead poisoning in several villages in Zamfara State of Nigeria, where more than 400 children have already died from contamination.
Giving these alarming facts here, a health official added that 2,000 children under five had shown signs of lead levels in the blood far exceeding international standards, due to exposure to lead-rich gold ore, with some areas yet to be cleaned up despite repeated warnings.
The children live in villages in Zamfara State where lethal levels of lead poisoning were reported in 2010 due to illegal gold mining. Lead has been dispersed in the villages by the processing of ore for gold extraction.
“There are 2,000 children suffering from lead poisoning in eight lead-contaminated villages yet to be remediated,” confirmed Nasiru Tsafe, deputy co-ordinator of Zamfara state’s rapid response team. “These children are exposed to more danger by their constant exposure to lead and the delay in treatment.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch researcher Jane Cohen, who visited the area recently, said the situation was worse than anticipated with a large number of children exposed to high lead contamination well above the World Health Organisation’s accepted limit.
Most of the victims are from Bagega village, a 9,000-strong farming and herding community where all 1,500 children suffer from lead poisoning. “Bagega provides the worst challenge because it is bigger than all the other seven villages combined, and all the over 1,500 children in the village have lead poisoning,” Cohen said.
The short-term effects of lead poisoning include acute fever, convulsions, loss of consciousness and blindness, with anaemia, renal failure and brain damage among the long-term effects.
The immediate course of action should be remediation, according to Tsafe, but remediation work has been stalled since March due to a shortage of financing, which forced TerraGraphics, a US-based engineering firm that has been carrying out the cleanup, to move out. TerraGraphics targeted 15 badly contaminated villages for remediation, and had cleaned up seven with US$2.3 million in donations before it ran out of cash.