The glitter of tin

when a large deposit of tin was discovered in the Jos plateau in central Nigeria at the turn of the 20th century, expectations were high. Tin mining on the plateau began in 1905 and gradually became the backbone of the economic prosperity of Jos city. Jobs were easily available and the mining activities kept virtually everyone happy.

As the people basked in the economic boom brought on by the thriving tin mining industry, no one gave a thought to the environmental implications of the deep excavations. This resulted in environmental degradation of the landscape of Jos city, which was considered to be the most picturesque in Nigeria.

For about 67 years, the tin mining sector was virtually monopolised by foreign interests, particularly British firms that controlled 90 per cent of the tin mining industry. In 1972, the Nigerian government nationalised the industry. But the government action may have enabled the major culprits in the environmental degradation of Jos Plateau to evade responsibility for the costs of cleaning up the mess, say environmentalists.

The mined-out pits are filled with heavy metal-laden water, and high radiation levels are causing concern. No one is assuming responsibility for the massive clean up operation. People living on the plateau make use of the wastes from mining sites to build their houses, a practice which exposes them to radiation.

In some areas on the plateau, such as Bukuru, Rayfield, Shere Hills and Anglo Jos, deep ugly gashes

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