The federal government is set to partner with South African equity investor, Simang Group and the Enugu state government to revive the coal industry for the benefit of the South East geopolitical zone. This partnership is expected to boost the economic climate of Enugu state and by extension the south east.
“We have always been hopeful that coal will once again play a major role in the economic development of the country. It would generate employment for our people. It will enhance the growing profile of Enugu State,” said Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi when he received a delegation of Simang Group.
Currently, 11.5 million Nigerians are unemployed, according to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics. So, as far as employment goes, re-opening Enugu coal mines will create jobs directly for miners and indirectly through allied businesses.
It is necessary to point out that initial efforts by both the federal and state government to revamp the coal mines in Enugu did not yield the desired results. The state government complained about “the nonchalant and uncooperative attitude of owners of mining leases and licenses for solid minerals in Enugu state,” who “are virtually unknown to the state government.”
The revitalization of the coal industry which has been dormant for close to forty years is a positive development. It also comes at a time when Nigeria’s economic direction has shifted from oil. It is expected that this investment will provide an alternative source of power generation for the country.
According to the Simang investors the principal objective of the investment drive is to use coal to generate electricity and then spin a chain of allied business activities for the benefit of Ndigbo and Nigeria as a whole.
“From the South African perspective, I am interested in ensuring that I facilitate trade and investment, when there is need for Nigerians to use their natural resources to curtail the challenges that the country is facing to make sure that the economic development within the country is achieved,” the group chairman, Mr. Stephen Paddy explained.
The group’s objective which is to generate power is also in line with the federal government’s resolve to explore the use of coal as an alternative source for power generation.
At a town hall meeting held in Enugu, The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said that the current administration sees coal as a veritable source of energy.
“If you look at the road map for energy that was produced by the previous government, which we are not changing, it said a major proportion of Nigeria’s energy should come from coal. Our priority is coal to power generation and it is already happening. We are not unmindful of the fact that Nigeria has very abundant coal reserves and we will make sure that this is developed.”
This investment which will lead to the re-opening of coal mines in Enugu needs to be regulated to ensure best practices and safety of people and the environment. For instance, the Niger Delta region is currently plagued by oil spillage. The effects which have left farmland and water sources contaminated, and this has been attributed to unregulated activities of oil companies. If the necessary framework is set up, Enugu and its environs will be protected from any harm that may result from coal mining.
Locals should be carried along in any move by the government to either sell or lease coal mining properties. This will prevent conflict of interest and help safe guard mining sites and installations against sabotage.
Similar partnership deals have been signed in the past but the government’s attitude contributed in delaying its implementation. This time, in collaboration with the Enugu state government, the federal government needs to focus on making this work by tying up any loose ends in the agreement.
Source: Ventures Africa