The Enugu State Government, Monday, took a major step in checkmating the activities of miners in the state with the sealing of illegal mining sites and sites without environmental impact certifications and mitigation plans.
Recall that the Governor Peter Mbah administration had in June banned illegal mining activities in the state and also set up the Enugu State Committee on Mining Activities last week to checkmate the menace.
The Committee, which was led by its Chairman and Commissioner for Environment and Climate Change, Prof. Sam Ugwu, stormed a mining site in Awhum, Udi Local Government Area, owned by Milhouse Ltd.
Addressing newsmen after a firsthand inspection of mining activities at the site where various infringements ranging form environmental degradation to blasting without approval and due regulations, non-remittance of staff tax to the State Government despite deducting same from the staff as well as non-remittance of pension contributions to the pension scheme despite deducting same from the staff, among others, were suspected. Prof. Ugwu said the government would not fold its hands and watch the environment destroyed and lives engendered.
“Our mission is basically to seal, on behalf of the State Government, mining activities that do not have any recourse to the State Government. We are also here to look at what is going on and you have all seen a lot of environmental degradation going on.
“We equally want to see the veracity of the license, which they claim they have and to find out how they have been remitting their environmental fees to Enugu State Government.”
“Importantly, want to find out the mitigating plans they have in place. We are very much interested in what happens to these host communities and their environs many years after these miners have closed shop because if you take a look at the Niger Delta, the people are still suffering greatly from environmental degradation caused by oil exploration activities of many decades ago.”
“Enugu powered the industries of Europe and beyond at some point through this same coal. Today, our environment is still bearing the scars and brunt of those mining activities. So, we will not fold our hands and watch that happen all over again”.
He faulted the claim by the operators of the mine that they started mining activities at the site in 2022, saying “from all indications, this site has been in operation for more than five years”.
He said government was very much aware of other mining sites in different parts of the state operating illegally and without license or running foul of environmental protection laws and regulations, assuring that “government is coming after all of them”.
The Committee also served a notice on African Pits and Quarries Ltd to stop operations immediately and report to the Government House on Thursday.
“Sequel to the directive of the Governor of Enugu State banning illegal mining activities in the state, you are hereby warned to desist and stop all mining activities in this environment.”
“Your failure to comply strictly as directed above may lead to your arrest and prosecution in the state Environmental Protection Court.”
“You are therefore required, as a matter of urgency, to furnish this office with comprehensive list of the following: Approval license from the Nigeria Mining Cadastral Office, evidence of notification letter to Enugu State Ministry of Environment before commencement of operations, evidence of payment for ecological control permit from the Ministry, evidence of payment of environmental remedial fee, approval license from both the Federal Ministry of Mines and Federal Ministry of Environment for Environmental Impact Assessment certification, evidence of acknowledgement/consent letter from Enugu State Ministry of Environment, and evidence of environmental remediation plans to address in a systemic manner all issues that may arise from any prospective mining activities or ongoing in the state”.
Meanwhile, the General Manager in charge of operations at the Awhum site, Akintola Oluwafemi, while assuring that the company would comply with government directives, however, said the firm obtained all necessary licenses from the Federal Government and was also mindful of environment in its operations.
On the government team were other members of the Committee, namely, Kingsley Nnaji, Special Adviser to the Governor on Energy and Mineral Resources; Frank Anioma, Special Adviser on Political Matters; and Uche Anichukwu, Senior Special Assistant on External Relations.
Meanwhile, enforcement of the Governor’s directives continues with visits to other sites.