Natural minerals can be of great benefit to a country if extracted responsibly.
It is unfortunate that in the developing world, more especially the African region, precious metals have been the source of grave ruin in the form of warfare and injustice.
Natural resources are also increasingly causing environmental concerns in unregulated or under monitored territories, where illegal mining has become the order of the day.
Illegal mining generally involves the extraction of natural minerals without a valid permit to do so, or contravening conditions set forth in a valid permit.
The scourge of illegal mining will usually occur where there once was a legitimate prospecting and/or mining operation. When it becomes unprofitable for companies to continue mining a certain area, they will leave an open shaft or any other form of access for any person to enter the mine in a bid to extract what may be left of mineral deposits to be sold in the black market.
The blame in this regard can be assigned to both the government and the mining companies.
The role of government is to ensure that companies comply with environmental plans which will set out the necessary measures to be effected once a mine shuts down its operations. This would (or should) include ensuring that the mine cannot be excavated by unqualified individuals. Companies must play their part by ensuring that the community in which it once operated is not left in a situation worse than before the area was mined.
The activity that lay people engage in may spell ruin for the environment in that such people pay no regard to the effect of their illegal exploits on the natural environment. It is however rather difficult to lay blame on people who engage in illegal mining. Their ignorance coupled with pressing socio-economic issues warrants a pardon for their activity. In law we usually say that economic necessity is no justification, however from a social point of view it is the government that must protect people from themselves.
Poor communities must be taught of the dangers that come with illegal mining, not just on their lives but the environment too. Perhaps corporations must also play their part in not dealing with unlicensed precious metal traders.
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