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

He first observed the previously colourless river turning brown in July 2019 while catnapping at the riverbank after fishing for the day. Prior to his discovery, Razaq Femi made at least N5,000 in daily returns from fishing along the coast of the river. But by November 2019, when the colour change had come to stay, he noticed the fish starting to dwindle, and his income took a tumble.

Femi says he thought it was a natural occurrence.

By April 2020 when most parts of the world were on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the water, according to Femi, had completely turned brown. At that point, the 37-year-old said his fellow fishermen began to ask questions and were ultimately able to trace the contamination to the mining activities in Osogbo, the capital of Osun state.

The fishermen, over 500 of them, were not sure of what was being mined. What was clear to them was their progressively dwindling income, and after it nosedived to N200 in 2022, many abandoned Asejire in search of other rivers to make ends meet. But not Femi; he still visits occasionally in the hope that things might change while his wife’s income keeps the family running.

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