Radioactive materials in abandoned mining fields in central Nigeria's Plateau state pose a serious health hazard to two million people, officials said Saturday.
"Around two million people now live and farm close to the mines, which means they are all at risk from the harmful effects of the radioactive emissions from the mining fields," Plateau environment commissioner Nankim Bagudu told AFP.
Health officials said laboratory analysis of 1,100 abandoned tin and columbite mining fields scattered in five districts around the state showed the presence of radioactive materials that are harmful to human health.
"The people living around these mining fields stand the risk of cancer of the skin, lungs and liver as well as eye impairments from prolonged exposure to radioactive mine tailings we discovered in the mines, an official from the Nigerian nuclear research agency told AFP.
There was a boom in coal, tin and columbite mining in the 1960s in Plateau state, with over 1,000 mining fields established in Jos, Barikin-Ladi, Bukur, Bassa and Riyom districts.
But after mining activities declined people moved into areas around the abandoned mines, setting up farms and building houses, according to Bagudu.
He said state authorities had launched an awareness campaign to warn residents to keep away from the mines and stop using the soil for domestic purposes.
He said an estimated 150 billion naira (1.3 billion dollars) would be needed to reclaim the 1,100 mining fields and turn them into recreational parks, resorts and irrigation fields.
State authorities had appealed to the federal authorities for assistance in funding the reclamation work, he added.