INVESTIGATION: How illegal mining fuels poverty, river pollution, sacred grove desecration in Osun

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Nigeria

Publishing organisation: TheCable.ng

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-06-20

Language: English

Authors: Author: Samad Uthman
Infograph support: Victor Ejechi
Reasearch assistant: Ayodele Oluwafemi
Drone: Tayo Olumurewa
Production: Anu Adelakun


Samad Uthman is an investigative multimedia Journalist whose work focuses on environment, corruption, and human rights.

Samad believes that courageous investigative reporting is pivotal to social justice and accountability in society.

Samad is a multiple award-winning investigative multimedia journalist. He was among the 10 shortlisted journalists around the world for Thomson Foundation young journalist award 2021. Samad was also adjudged joint winner of the West Africa Journalist of the Year award at the 2021 West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) alongside a Ghanaian colleague. He tweets at his verified Twitter account; @sarmerdk2

Project description:

In this report, I exposed that the Osun river, a sacred river that into the Atlantic Gulf of Guinea has been heavily contaminated by gold miners at a particular location in the source state and thereby affecting businesses and ruining family income.

We use Google earth, drone and lab test to reveal how thousands of Nigerian and international worshippers who believe in the power of the river can are exposed to heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals being washed into the river.

Impact reached:

24 hours after publishing, the **[Osun government vowed](https://www.thecable.ng/osun-to-clean-up-sacred-grove-after-thecables-investigation)** to carry out a clean-up of the sacred grove.

Later in August, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) said it is investigating the pollution of the Osun river.

In November, a **[new governor](https://www.thecable.ng/breaking-adeleke-sworn-in-as-governor-of-osun)** was voted into power in the state. The new governor first **[confirm](https://www.thecable.ng/adeleke-mining-companies-must-bear-cost-of-clean-up-in-osun-our-people-are-dying)**, as an impact of the investigative data journalism report, that residents are dying from the adverse effects of illegal mining activities in the state.

A day later, the **[governor ordered](https://www.thecable.ng/adeleke-orders-suspension-of-mining-activities-of-all-firms-operating-on-osun-licences)** the immediate suspension of all mining activities by firms operating on the state’s mining licences.

As as December 28, 2022, the governor later **[ordered the immediate disbandment](https://www.thecable.ng/adeleke-disbands-osun-mining-task-force-orders-reconstitution)** of the state’s mining joint task force (JTF).

Techniques/technologies used:

When I was hinted by a source about the menance, I requested for the name of the specific locations of the river. Using GIS softwares, I was able to understand the terrain and the direction of the river.

I reviewed the Google Earth imagery of all the towns and cities the river passed before getting to the point where it is being worshipped as a diety. I did all these while conducting desk research about the story. From here, I got the appropriate coordinate of the the beginning and end how it ended in the atlantic ocean. Also, I was able to see the history of how the colour of the river changed over time.

While on the field, I visited 5 different locations significant to the river to take water samples. I took these to the University of Lagos science labouratory to test for lead, mercury among others.

Context about the project:

I would have loved to expand the story more than what was published. But I was largely contraint by funding. I wanted to conduct a blood test to check if by chance, any of the residents living closer to the mining sites would have lead in their blood stream.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The contextual use of Google Earth, drone and Open street map.

Project links: