By Anayo Ezugwu
AN International Environmental Organisation has raised alarm over the health and environmental risks posed by Dangote Cement mining activities in Kogi State. The organization, 350.org said the results from hydrogeological studies of the coal mining areas and hydrogeochemical analyses of water and soil samples carried out in Ankpa Community, revealed high lead and ammonia content in the community water sources, including streams and boreholes.
The organization in a study titled; ‘Coal mining in Kogi State by Dangote Cement’ said analyses of the water done by the researchers also showed a large presence of dissolved solids, all of which meant that the community water was not safe for drinking. The researchers said they visited the mining sites in Onupu, Awo Akplokuta, Awo Ojuwo, Awo Ate, Ajobe, Afeanyaka and Utak to collect soil and water samples, conduct interviews and gather other evidence for the study.
“It is believed that water from the mines come into contact with water in streams, rivers and aquifers (a porous rock that holds water), which in turn gets chemically polluted,” the report said.
According to the report, the land of the community where the mining has been going on has been severely degraded and not economically viable for agricultural activities. “The people who are largely farmers are highly dependent on the land for agricultural activities. With the advent of mining, a good portion of what used to be fertile land is now minefields.
“The clearing of trees, plants and topsoil from the minefields have resulted in soil erosion and the destruction of agricultural land rain washes the loose bed topsoil into the community stream and the sediment further pollutes the water.”
The researchers said they spoke with Aliyu Suleiman, a leader of the community, who said aside the compensation Dangote Cement gave to some of the farmers, whose crops and economic trees were damaged during the land clearing process, no further compensation has been given to them for the degradation of their farming land as a result of the mining activities.
The researchers said analyses of the soil of the community shows that it has heavy metals, making agricultural yields to be very low and the farm produce not safe for consumption. They said the residents of the mining community also complained of smoke and dust as a result of spontaneous combustion of coal, a phenomenon which occurs during surface mining.
The impact of the dust, the study reveals, was the frequency of complaints by the residence of increased cases of respiratory diseases in the community. The study also revealed that the community has no healthcare centre, despite promises by Dangote Cement to provide one for them.
The report said Dangote Cement did not carry out the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment which is a condition for the issuance of a mining permit. The Environmental Impact Assessment is a study to shows the risk that certain projects could pose to the environment of the people.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 1992, it is mandatory for Environmental Impact Assessment and Environment Audit to be carried out with respect to all major projects, and it has to be approved by the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Environment Agency of the state in which the project is located. The researchers said there was no evidence that Dangote Cement met the condition.
The researchers called on the federal government to urgently carry out the Environmental Impact Assessment of the areas where Dangote Cement is currently mining coal. It also urged the company to conduct its operations in line with the United Nations business and human rights policy.
The report also recommended that the federal government should immediately investigate and correct the human rights violations in coal mining communities in Nigeria, particularly in Onupi, Okobo and Maiganga communities. It urged the federal ministry of mines and steel development to stop the issuance of licence for coal mining in Nigeria.
Dangote runs Africa’s biggest cement mill in Obajana, but sources its coal in Ankpa, a distance of more than 200 kilometres, all in Kogi State. Coal is the major energy source for the multi-billion naira Dangote cement’s factory. This might be the reason it secured a 25-year mining right in Ankpa from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, which would expire in 2040. Its five-year coal mining in Bassa, also a community in Kogi, had expired on December 16, 2019.
– Aug. 14, 2020 @ 16.45 GMT |