By Isaac Anumihe
Determined to solve the power issue in the country, the Federal Government, in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB), will fund coal projects in the country.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this during a meeting with stakeholders in the mining sector and host communities in Enugu.
According to him, while the $150 million World Bank loan recently approved for the sector may not cover coal projects, arrangements have been reached with the AfDB to fund coal projects in order for the country to take advantage of its huge coal reserves to solve its power problems.
The Minister said the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the Ministry of Power are collaborating on the coal projects, which, he said, is expected to account for about 30 per cent of the country’s power mix.
He said that the AfDB funding would be made available to investors who can set up coal power plants that can generate as much as 500 megawatts as well as those who can set up modular plants, assuring that the country has a huge reserve of coal that could help resolve the power issue.
“We have an existential need for power in this country and we have to do something about it and we can get power from coal, which we have in abundance. We need people-private sector that would set up plants that will use coal,” Fayemi said, adding that some organisations had acquired coal mining licences and had gone ahead to set up power generating plant to cater for their industrial use.
He cited Lafarge Cement and the Dangote Group as two of the notable business concerns who had acquired coal mining licences and set up power plants to generate power for their industrial use.
He added that the ministry recently gave coal mining licence to BUA Cement to mine coal in Sokoto and generate power.
The Minister who had earlier visited the Okpara and Onyeama coal mines in Enugu, in company with the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, said the coal from the mines used to serve the Oji rivers and also Ijora, in Lagos State, before it was abandoned.
He said his tour of the coal mines is to ensure that the national assets are put to proper and profitable use.
Fayemi said that state governments and private businesses would benefit from the coal projects, even as he stated that environmental safety would be taken seriously.
In a statement, the Minister expressed optimism that with a successful investment in the coal projects, the power issue would be resolved. He added that the ministry was talking with the Ministry of Works to assist in fixing some of the roads leading to the mines.
The stakeholders’ meeting was attended by representatives of the state government, led by the Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Ambassador Fidel Ayogu; traditional rulers, representatives of host communities, security agencies, investors and local miners.
Similarly, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi has said that the Federal Government is ready to collaborate with state governments and critical stakeholders to revive the mining sector in the country.
The Minister disclosed this when he paid a courtesy call on the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, during a tour of mining locations in the state.
Fayemi, accompanied by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, said they were in the state to inspect abandoned and unutilised coal mines with a view to reviving them.
“There are about 13 coal mines in Enugu State, some have been privatised while others are abandoned and vandalised. The Federal Government is concerned about the risk and safety of these abandoned coal mines and has embarked on environmental audit of the mines to see how they can be made attractive to investors”, he said.
He solicited the support and cooperation of Enugu State Government in bringing back the past glory of coal mining in the country. He said the Federal Government is prioritising coal for power generation and investors are being encouraged to invest in coal plant.
Ugwuanyi noted that his state is richly endowed with solid minerals but had benefited little or nothing from its mineral endowments due to illegal mining and non utilisation of mining licences held by some operators he described as “ghost miners”. He stated that many are in possession of mining licences but have not utilised them there by denying the state of the benefits accruable from the sector.
The Governor urged the Federal Government to apply the “use it or lose it” provision in the Mining Act 2007 and revoke all unutilised licences issued to operators in the state in order to enable serious mining operators acquire mining licences and use them for the benefit of the state.