Oct 24, 2008

The Mining Ponds of Jos Plateau

The Jurassic Younger Granites of Jos Plateau are not just physical attractions to environmental tourists but are the host of tin and columbite mineral deposits that have given the locality global prominence in the past. These mineral deposits got European mining companies busy from the very beginning of the twentieth century. Mining activities declined on the Plateau as a result of the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta leading to some sort of involuntary decision to let the mines lie fallow.

At the exact locations of these mining sites one sees spectacular coned-shaped mounds of excavated overburden soils with base radius as much as 30m and rising to heights of about 15m. Usually many of such cones could be seen clustered together. On the sides are the man-steep sided depressions filled with still waters that often make them dreadful looking. These depressions represent the locations the heaps once were.

Mining activities affected close to a quarter of the communities in the state especially in Jos-south, Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, Bassa, Riyom and Jos-east local government areas.

Big-time mining activities ended in the eighties. In some places time is wearing away the prominence of mining scars. In other places they are as prominent as ever, thereby remaining as wastelands that occupy space that would have been put to gainful use especially in agricultural production. Furthermore, the mining ponds have become death traps where people often die mysteriously.

As the saying goes, behind any cloud is a silver lining. These thing mines are not all waste after all. Our siblings born long after mining activities have ended often seek to know what these eye-catching anomalies represent. As a result some of these old mines came to be used as educational resource sites for teaching kids about mining and to also let them know about the mining history of their native lands. In Rayfield, a part of Jos, a mining pond has been made into a recreational facility, the Rayfield Resort where people often go and have a nice time especially during public holidays. As can be understood, Plateau State derived its name from the geographical nature of the terrain that is elevated and flat on top. In view of the fact that it lies within the savannah vegetation belt, it becomes possible to see for miles away, giving the Plateau the beauty it has been known for. Where mine sites occur, the red laterite of mining waste contrast with the background environment making the landscape even more beautiful.

To those who worked in the mining companies, anything reminiscent of the mining activities brings back sweet memories of a time they worked and were paid in currencies that had integrity, a period during which employers provided descent accommodation complete with steady electric power and water, not to mention transportation and manpower training. The local communities never experienced hopelessness and despair, only the opposite.

In view of the fact that hundreds of new mining licenses where issued in 2007, heaps of mining waste are sure to rise again, if not on the Plateau they will elsewhere in Africa’s most populous nation.

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