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Living On The Edge: Abandoned Coal Mines In Enugu Are Eclipsing Communities




Years of coal mining in some communities in Enugu State and attendant negligence of these mining websites are actually resulting in harmful environmental degradation that threatens these communities. On this report, Ben Aroh, who visited Enugu North, Udi and Ezeagu native authorities areas of Enugu State the place the mines are positioned, captures the fears of the residents and threats posed by the deserted coal mines. 

‘We’re sandwiched by landslides’

Anthony Onoh and his household are marking time—their solely residence, sandwiched by deserted mines, could prior to later be swallowed by the mines. When it’ll occur is what they don’t know. 

Onoh’s house is located between Amuzam and Colliery, each at Ngwo in Enugu North Native Authorities Space, Southeast Nigeria, the place the defunct Nigerian Coal Company (NCC) had mined coal. Coal mining in Enugu began in 1916, eight years after coal was found, and lengthy earlier than Nigeria made a discovery of crude oil in industrial amount at Oloibiri in 1956 within the present-day Bayelsa State.

The home, Onoh says, is displaying indicators that its days are numbered, however he and his nuclear household has nowhere to relocate. “We dwell right here as a result of we don’t have choices. We entry our home by means of impassable routes. The muse of our constructing is cracking and falling off. Absolutely, it’ll fall if nothing is urgently carried out to treatment the state of affairs,” he stated. 

“By our proper is the deserted Colliery mine,” he continued. “Behind us is the Amuzam website. We are able to’t farm right here anymore. There aren’t any extra sources of livelihood right here. After we constructed this home, the gully was not spreading with this tempo.” 

Mercy, Anthony Onoh’s spouse, says they see day-after-day because the final for his or her home as a result of the approaching erosion occasioned by the deserted coal mines not too long ago pulled down the perimetre fence of the home. 

 “Just a few days in the past, the remaining a part of our fence fell down,” Mercy Onoh stated. “Our cries haven’t been listened to in any respect. Some property homeowners round right here left a few years in the past due to the hazards therein. You get up and see that part of your home has collapsed.

“You’ll be able to see that we’re surrounded by gullies. Environmental officers have been coming. Some stated they got here from Abuja. However nothing a lot has been carried out. The Enugu State authorities is making an attempt, however the velocity this gully is spreading calls for extra motion.”

Like Onoh’s household home, a worship centre, Rivers of Life Int. Mission Centre, sited close to the Colliery landslide, can be ready to be consumed by the threatening gully erosion. “The worry is that the gully is increasing every day with out the corresponding intervention. If nothing is finished urgently, this church could also be pulled down. This isn’t our prayer,” says a member of the centre who recognized himself as Nnamdi.

Coal mines deserted after civil battle

When it was found, Nigerian coal was exported to neighbouring Ghana, United Kingdom, Egypt and South Africa. However the manufacturing was crippled by the invention of different sources of power, Nigerian Civil Conflict, and unsuccessful privatization makes an attempt. “Nigeria Civil Conflict negatively impacted on coal manufacturing,” the Nigerian Tourism Board was quoted in a report. 

Following the battle, manufacturing by no means fully recovered and coal manufacturing ranges have been erratic. Makes an attempt at mechanizing manufacturing ended badly, as each the implementation and upkeep of imported mining tools proved troublesome. It adversely affected manufacturing. After the civil battle, the Nigerian coal trade has not been in a position to return to its peak manufacturing of the Nineteen Fifties, the tourism board acknowledged. 

A number of privatization makes an attempt−to salvage the coal mining sector−together with the one by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 up till 2004, didn’t convey again the fortunes of the once-flourishing trade. All these, together with the selling-off of its belongings by the NCC to settle money owed owed its workers members, meant that the mines have been without end deserted. 

The deserted mines are actually threatening human existence; and residents of the affected areas are helpless. “It’s pathetic that we have now been deserted since coal turned much less fancied on this nation,” Mr Onoh stated. “My father informed me that our space was a centre of attraction through the coal exploration. Hundreds of individuals earned their dwelling right here.”

‘Flood washed away our kin, houses earlier than authorities’s interventions’

Amuzam, one of many deserted coal mines, is suffering from relics of collapsed buildings. Residents say the once-lively group may have gone into extinction due to the coal mines, however for the reclamation by the Enugu State authorities and the World Financial institution. 

“You’ll be able to see many collapsed storey-buildings. Some individuals additionally misplaced their lives. I recall just a few that have been swept by floods. A few of their corpses have been by no means recovered. The outcry pressured authorities’s intervention,” a resident, Paulinus Ossai, informed our correspondent. He added that, “With out the reclamation carried out by the state authorities in collaboration with the World Financial institution, Amuzam would have gone into extinction.

“The development firm did a superb job in filling the gullies. However many affected areas are but to be lined.”

Communal efforts to reclaim their lands yielded little or no outcome, says John Enwu, a group chief. Their farmlands have equally been taken over by the environmental degradation that the deserted coal mines have introduced.

“Our farmlands and residential buildings have been destroyed earlier than this reclamation,” Enwu informed our correspondent. “One other group which this ecological downside has adversely affected is Umueze-Asata, the place farmlands have been washed away and getting very near residential buildings.” 

James Eze who lives in the identical group shares his expertise: “We tried all that we may. The erosion has gone past our native efforts. We dig holes simply to decelerate water pressures and water currents. We additionally fill baggage of cement with sands simply to hedge it off, however the water stress is at all times an excessive amount of.” 

At Okpuno-Nsude in Udi Native Authorities Space the place Okpara mines are positioned, residents dwell in fixed worry throughout wet seasons. Not like Amuzam, the intervention at Okpuno-Nsude continues to be within the pipeline. 

This hitherto agrarian group has change into a ghost of itself because the landslides unfold meteorically. The natives undertake varied erosion-control measures to curtail it, however it retains spreading. “We’re apprehensive that the underground tunnels which have been there for a few years could collapse sooner or later,” Sheddy Ozoene, a local of the village, stated.

Titus Ozoani, one other villager, corroborates Ozoene and stated they dwell in worry. “We dwell in worry day-after-day. Via communal efforts, we plant bamboo bushes to ameliorate the state of affairs. Though it curbs the excesses, quite a bit should be carried out,” he informed our reporter.

“There was a time the authorities of the World Financial institution got here to oversee it. Ever since then, we have now remained expectant. They’re but to return once more. This erosion has killed our farming actions. The impact is devastating,” he stated.

For the time being, the state authorities, below the Enugu State-Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Administration Challenge (NEWMAP), a World Financial institution assisted undertaking, is finishing up reclamation, channelling, and remediation at Colliery gully erosion website. It’s being dealt with by Anbeez Providers Ltd. The work at Amuzam gully website was additionally carried out by the identical firm. 

Strolling within the shadow of loss of life

Seven communities below Agbaja cultural zone−Nsude, Obioma, Amuzam, Nachi, Eke, ninth Mile, and Ngwo−all with deserted coal mines, have an undetermined and harmful hole beneath them. 

Leaders of the areas, often known as Agbaja Leaders of Thought, engaged the providers of environmentalists and geologists. They are saying they have been informed that there are hazard zones that would collapse like earthquake. They’re demanding the mining maps to find out these purple zones. 

Agu Gab Agu, a professor of regulation and secretary of the group, says the mines have been shut hurriedly with out due processes. Agu blamed the Nigerian authorities for failing to do the proper factor in reclaiming the affected areas on the time the coals have been shut down. 

“These mines have been shut hurriedly with out due processes,” he stated. “Normally, when mines are being closed, there needs to be props or bushes to carry the openings within the bowel of the earth. They’re massive openings that once they begin to collapse, they may convey down the whole lot on their prime.

“The mines journey many kilometres, so far as Ebe, Obioma, and Nachi. So we’re on prime of them with out figuring out that the beneath is hole. Some communities, like Nsude, will quickly collapse.” 

They’re apprehensive of what may occur quickly. So they’re in search of to have the map of the world. “We have now commissioned some work by environmentalists and geologists on that,” Agu says. “Our question is that those that did this factor ought to give us the maps. We need to know the hazard zones.

“No one can discountenance that the issue of Ugwu Onyeama could also be a part of this growth. If it handed by means of ninth Mile, with the continuing growth there, it signifies that sooner or later, it’ll simply go down. Most of these lands might not be helpful to the homeowners once more. They should be restituted.” 

Nigerian Mining Act 2007, though doesn’t specify the penalties for non-reclamation of mined areas, is specific in making certain normal practices at mine zones, notably by those that labored on the mines. 

Chapter 4 of the Act, entitled ‘Environmental Concerns and Rights of Host Communities, states that, “The minister shall by order require the grantee of a mining lease to revive any space in respect of which mining operation has been, is being, or is to be carried out, on or after the date on which this Act comes into operation.

“The place land which is topic of a mining lease has been exploited, the reclamation of mined-out areas shall be restored by the applicant below the situation of its grant, in any other case the related provision of part 10 of this Act shall apply.” 

Authorities Interventions

Barr Vincent Egechukwu Obetta, undertaking coordinator of Enugu State-NEWMAP, revealed that, “The undertaking intervention on the erosion areas in Ngwo communities has commenced with the award of contracts for the six websites.”

Nonetheless, for that of Ugwuto-Nsude, the undertaking was efficiently handed over on October 2018, on completion, to the host group, Obetta additional stated.

Investigations by this newspaper present that intervention work is ongoing at 4 fingers of the deserted mines positioned at Isata, Colliery, St Theresa’s and Amuzam, though at a snail’s tempo. 

This, in accordance with findings, is a results of paucity of funds in the direction of the counterpart funding scheme. “The reclamation of Amuzam and ongoing works at another affected websites of the landslides present that Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has not forgotten these areas,” a neighborhood supply who didn’t need to be named stated. 

A publication of Enugu State-Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Administration Challenge reveals that former governor Sullivan Chime paid a counterpart fund of N30 million and one other N30 million in 2013, and later permitted N200 million in 2014 for NEWMAP initiatives as counterpart funds with the World Financial institution.


– This story was produced in partnership with Civic Media Lab below its Grassroots Information Challenge

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