Report of the Youth Action Parliament on the Effect of Coal Mining and Climate Change in Iva Valley, Udo Local Government Area of Enugu State Held on the 6th of August 2020 and Organized by Lekeh Development Foundation (LEDEF) Funded by Global Greengrant Fund Through African Coal Network (ACN)
In a bid to fight against environmental damages which often arise from coal mining activities in Iva Valley town of Enugu State and the need to sensitize the people to protect the environment, a Youth Action Parliament (YAP) was organized by Lekeh Development Foundation (LEDEF) to discuss the environmental hazards caused by the coal mining industry and the way to a possible means of remediation. The youths, numbering over seventy persons were engaged in an interactive forum where they highlighted different effects of the environment resulting from coal mining activities.
Some stakeholders from the host community mostly the elites who were also involved in the discussion did not only corroborated with the evidence given by the youths but went further to enumerate their experience with the coal mining industry which include work without pay, marginalization and how coal mining affected their underground water which is the only source of water in Iva Valley town.
In an opening remark, the founder of Lekeh Development foundation (LEDEF) Comr. Nbani Friday Barilule, expressed his heartfelt appreciation to the youths of Iva Valley community for finding time out of their busy schedules to attend the youth action parliament which according to him is very vital and crucial to the development of the community. He also thanks them for massive turn-up which according to him surpassed his expectation. He said that the foundation has decided to engage the Youths of Iva Valley in an interactive session having observed that the air, water and land of Iva valley are in danger due to the neglect and the negative effect of coal mining in the areas. He further said that their demands will be forwarded to the state and federal government of Nigeria, International Community and all relevant authorities to pursue environmental justice.
Prof Daniel S. Ugwu, who anchored the program also assured the Iva Valley people that Lekeh Development Foundation (LEDEF) has come to give them support so that their voices will be heard. He added that Enugu water have a question mark, which resulted from the activities of the coal mining companies. He encouraged the people to embrace the event because their case is not different from what happened in Ogoni and today remediation is going on in all impacted sites in Ogoniland. Finally, he urged the youths to take the youth action parliament seriously because one day Iva Valley town shall have justice for the environment.
The Effects of Coal Mining on the Community Women, A Paper Presented by Mr. Uche Okafor, a Lecturer in University of Nigeria, Nsuka
According to the senior lecturer who deposited his wealth of knowledge on the topic, coal mining affects women in a numerous ways. For example, he stated that the emission of chemical substances into the atmosphere pollutes the air and it affects the lungs when we breathe. He added that the same substances cause vaginal cancer. He said the activities of this mining company equally affect the underground water and thereby cause low output of agricultural products. The women of the community according to him are mostly farmers whose livelihood depends on agriculture. Their water is also affected as rivers and streams are no longer a good source of drinking water in the area.
The Role of the Youth in Protecting the Environment and Danger Involved in Coal Extraction Presented by Dr. Benard Nnadi
Dr. Bernard, pointed out some vital and crucial roles the youth of Iva Valley can play to protect their environment. According to him, the youth bring development when they unite and speak in one voice, he further said that unity brings development and disunity brings about anarchy. He noted that the youth can as well bring viable information to the elite of the community and should stand firm and work together. “When the youth work together they form a common force to protect the community against external aggression and coal mining activities that have negative effects on the environment without adequate compensation is part of such aggression.”
He added that coal can be good because of its use for power generation beside other utilities, it can be used to produce fertilizer. and apart from that coal has about forty byproducts. However, they can’t sit down to fold their arms across their chest when things are going wrong.
He further stated that negative effects of coal mining are still plaguing the people of Iva Valley. According to him some houses are getting cracks on their walls because they were built on coal mines areas. In this vein, he insisted that the people of Iva Valley are presently suffering from the effects of coal mining and, like the Ogoni people who line at the heart of the Niger Delta region, should be compensated for the environmental degradation arising from coal mining. He categorically said that members of the affected communities should make their demands from Government or related agencies through Lekeh Development Foundation. Chief Onodu John a retired Director of Forestry, Enugu who addressed the youth at the end of the interaction said in 1949, some workers, numbering about twenty-one staff of the coal mining company in Iva Valley, were shot dead because they demanded the right to a good working environment and their entitlements. Thereafter, another set of workers died subsequently making it a total of thirty-two persons.
Health Implication of Coal Mining on Human, Food, Land, Water and Air Presented by Elder (Dr.) Okechukwu Job Uwaelelam (Former President Senior Staff Association, Nigerian Coal Corporation, Enugu)
Background to the history of Nigeria economically and politically cannot be mentioned without the significant role played by coal mining. Much as the exploration and exploitation of coal brought much sought after revenue for the government and income to mine workers and the environs, so did it generate adverse effect on the biodiversity and human population. Coal mining started in century (2002) all the mines in Enugu had closed down.
Impact of Coal Mining on Human, Food, Land, Water and Air
Many studies have been carried out on the effect of coal mining and its impact on man and his environment. All came to the conclusion of the negative impact of coal exploration and exploitation when proper assessment is not carried out before, during and after coal mining activities, and how to handle the ill effects everywhere around the world, from North America, to South America, Africa, Australia and Europe etcetera. For the miners, the health hazard is enormous through exposure to toxic metals like methane, silica, sulphate, iron and manganese etcetera. Long exposure to these harmful metals have been shown to cause pneumoconiosis, neurological disorders and silicosis etc. Pneumoconiosis and silicosis are lung diseases. Moreover, is the air pollution caused by coal dust, which in this case is not restricted to the miners. This dust can be blown over long distances, especially in the surrounding environs where coal mines are located thereby exposing more people to lung diseases as aforementioned.
Besides, most studies have established the presence and debilitating impact of acid mine drainage (AMD) where coal mining had taken place. The impact of AMD becomes more acute when it is an abandoned mine like we have in Enugu. AMD results from the interaction of surface and ground water in rock fissures where coal mining activity has been carried out and is known to pollute water. This involves exposure of chemicals like pyrite and sulphur to air and water leading to oxidation.
Utom and Odoh (2013), in their study of hydro geochemical characteristics of ground water around Okpara mine and Obwetti fireclay mine, find that the concentrations of some metals are higher than the recommended World Health Organization (WHO) standards in some sample ground water collected for the study.
Also Malio (2011) and Obiadi & others (2016) report in their study that the acidity of water around Enugu mine areas and environs is higher than what is recommended by WHO because of a low pH (potential of hydrogen) level. They equally added that high iron concentration owing to AMD poses harmful effects on humans, animals, aquatic, and agricultural life, and also reduces the suitability of water for domestic purpose.
In a recent study of environment impact of coal mining in Enugu and tin mining in Jos with reference to Okpara and Onyeama mines, Omotehinse and Ako (2019) observed that AMD led to pollution of rivers, streams, ground water, deforestation, and alteration of the landscape. All these evidences point to one thing – exploration and exploitation and alternation of coal has led to health hazards, loss of biodiversity, loss of landscape, and degradation of the environment. However, it needs to be pointed that a good policy framework is needed to see that all areas (e.g miners who suffered as a result of mining activities; the environs affected by mining activities) affected by coal mining activities whether still ongoing or closed should be adequately compensated owing to the dangers brought on by exploration and exploitation of coal.
Our finding was gathered from the successful project carried out in Iva Valley:
- Coal companies identified include: Nigerian Coal Corporation, Railway Corporation, Nkalagu Cement Factory, NEPA, IK Batteries Ibadan, Bakery Industries, and Ajaokute Steel Industry.
- The Iva valley coal mine was opened in 1917 by the British Government of Nigeria after the Udi mine 1915.
- There is virtually no infrastructural development to show that the mineral resource exploited in Iva Valley community once contributed largely to the country’s revenue base.
- The living condition of the people have worsened because of the acidic waters that flows from the abandoned coal mine has polluted their farmlands.
- According to Miss Chidinma, a resident of the area, many family houses have developed cracks due to many years of underground mining. Many years of Underground mining affected their underground water which is their major source of water.
- The government and the Nigerian coal corporation (NCC) which mined coal in the area have abandoned the people as there is no good drinking water, no electricity, and no good living condition.
- It’s also our finding that the Nigerian coal corporation which was a major company has stopped operation in 2005 though their equipment is intact.
- According to Elder (Dr) Okechukwu Job Uwaclelam, coal mining has adverse effects on the biodiversity and the human population. Coal also affects the food, air, and water in the area.
- The people are exposed to harmful metals such as methane, silica, sulphate, and manganese etc. These poisonous metals have been shown to cause pneumoconiosis, silicosis (Lung Disease) and neurological disorder, Coal dust also causes air pollution in the area.
- Exploration and exploitation of coal has led to landscape and degradation of the environment.
- According to Mr. Uchenna Okafor many women involved in agriculture washed their bitter leaves and vegetables with coal polluted water and stand the risk of having vaginal cancer and other kinds of cancer.
- Some of the former staff of the Nigerian coal corporation from the area lamented that their allowance has not been given to them for over ten years today. There assured us that never to be involved in the mining activities anymore while appealing that LEDEF should help support them with renewable energy project or capacity building project that will improve their living condition.
- It is also part of our findings that there was emission of substances like methane, carbon, and dust into the atmosphere during mining.
- These harmful substances cause climate change, change of weather like too much heat in the area presently.
- We recommend that there should be provision of livelihood support for the host community especially to farmers whose farmlands have been contaminated by acid water and therefore can no longer yield bounty and harvest fit for human consumption.
- It is also our recommendation that there should be a skills acquisition centre in the community to train teaming unemployed youths in various craft.
- We also recommend for alternative drinking source of water this is because their only source of water is contaminated with the acidic water that flows from the abandoned coal mine.
- That there is need for us to organize another similar outing in other coal mining affected communities in the state including coal camp, aboh. Asata, Nsude, Akwuke, and Akebe Ugwu etc.
- That there is need to organize anti-coal campaign in the state.
- That there is need to strengthen the capacity of the just created Ecological Defenders who will stand to monitor the coal activities in the region and report back to LEDEF
- That there is need to organize training for youths on renewable energy so that they lead in providing renewable energy solutions as alternative.
- To carry out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).