With the absence of steady power supply, the present government transformation agenda seeks to develop the solid minerals sector, with emphasis on coal as a complement to other power sources. Ruth Tene visited the Zuma Coal Mines and looks at the possibility.
An informal gold miner in Zamfara State who prefered to be simply identified as Chairman, said there was much wealth in mining and all he and his colleagues were after was their daily bread as they meant no harm to anyone in their quest for survival.
Reacting to the allegations that they were going contrary to efforts of government to develop the sector, they denied. “Which government and how do they expect us to survive when there are no jobs?” this and many more are the reaction of miners in both rural and urban areas, who are seeking to make a living in a supposedly difficult world.
The Nigerian solid minerals sector has often been described as richly endowed and if these resources are properly harnessed,especially coal, jobs would be created ,in addition also, alternative revenue would be provided through royalty to government.Last but not the least, developmental services would be rendered to communities where these mineral resources are found through the Community Development Agreements (CDAs)
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Mohammed Musa Sada, while on a working visit to the Kogi State capital and particularly to the Eta Zuma Mines was optimistic that the present government’s target of creating alternative funding for the nation through solid minerals development and in particular, coal to meet government’s 30 per cent demand by year 2015, was very possible through a forge of partnership between government and the private sector.He said this target would help meet present day challenges of power supply.
He said the purpose of minerals exploitation was to make sure that the communities in which these resources were found were helped to eliminate poverty in addition to getting employment, education and health facilities.
Sada, cited that Zuma Coal before commencing operations had signed a community development agreement to give access roads among other benefits to the communities where it was domiciled.
According to the minister: “One of the mandates of the ministry is to see that Coal is made available to serve as supplementary fuel for power development to at least 30 per cent of the energy mix of the country by the year 2015, and we can hardly achieve that without paying attention to the coal deposits of Kogi State.”
He also said that the federal government was aiming at that by the year 2015, Nigeria would able to produce at least 30 million metric tonnes of steel and this could hardly happen without recourse to Kogi State knowing full well that the State was the heart of steel production in the country.
The minister disclosed that a lot of investors were already indicating strong interest in the sector including the the initial developers of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill who in a recent presentation demostrated a very strong capability to complete the mill and also digitise its operations.
The Executive Chairman of Eta Zuma Group, Dr Innocent Ezuma, also added: “There are many challenges as you know, this is a completely new industry to Nigeria but all those challenges are being adequately tackled, we are receiving a lot of support from the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development through the minister.”
Ezuma was of the opinion that Coal may not be a complete substitute to power, however, it was a good additional source of power and if properly harnessed could help nip in the bud, the power challenges presently confronting the nation.
He contended that at the moment, the major sources of power for the country were hydro and gas which in themselves have limitations. “Right now there is a drought; there is no water in our rivers, so even the Kainji and some of the dams do not receive enough water to power the turbines,” he said.
The Eta Zuma boss was optimistic that developing and producing more coal would definitely be a good and viable supplement to other power supply sources in Nigeria. “Our gas supply is also encumbered so you find out that if you do not have adequate mix such as coal, hydro, gas and eventually nuclear, we may be lagging behind in giving quantity and quality power, so it is not the only source that we want to use, we want to make coal additional source of power generation,” he added.
He said the company has ambitious plan to roll out 4 billion tonnes, the first stage with a proven production of 380 million tonnes. He said: “Today wood is being gotten at a very alarming volume which is causing desertification and causing erosion, so we cannot tell them not to be cutting wood and not create an alternative for them to cook.”
On the provision of access road, for the community where the company is domiciled he said: “We are just starting this mining.We recognise that Okobo/Enjema, Ankpa of Kogi is part of the bigger community , but our immediate host are Okobo , so all the development investment we are making meanwhile is in Okobo, but as we move forward we have the plans to also extend our community development activities to other places including Ankpa local government.”
With the likes of Zuma Coal and others , it is hopeful that the 30per cent alternative power supply would be achieved in the shortest possible time and the problem of power generation and supply would soon be a thing of the past.