Dangote illegally operates coal mines for years in Kogi, pollutes water supply of host communities, yet government looks sideway (PART 2)
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In the second part of this investigation, Olugbenga ADANIKIN reveals how fake Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was presented to host communities, scientific proof of lead poisoning of village water sources and borehole among other irregularities yet the government keeps mum.
How legal is Dangote’s operation in Kogi Coal-mining communities?
“Subject to the provisions of this section, the Holder of a Mining Lease, SmaIl Scale Mining Lease or Quarry Lease shall prior to the commencement of any development activity within the lease area, conclude with the host community where the operations are to be conducted, an agreement referred to as a Community Development Agreement or other such agreement that will; ensure the transfer of social and economic benefits to the community.”
This is Section 116 of the Mining Act (2007). But this provisions is grossly flouted.
For almost six years, Dangote Coalmine Company operated on the minefield with no recourse to the CDA. It continued its illegal operation, until September 2016 when it commenced coal excavation in Awoakpali and Onupi communities.
Initially, Dangote Coalmine started coal exploration in Onupi village in 2014 without proper community consent – an exercise against the mining regulation. The Act says there must be consent and the CDA must have been signed to show approval of the host community prior mining activities. It is usually an indication that the host community have given their consent and had not been exploited in anyway. But that was not the case.
In fact, the CDA is a major requirement to acquire a mining lease from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) before proper excavation could commence.
“We just saw them in the bush working. So we challenged them,” Dominic, Onupi Youth Leader told The ICIR.
“After a while, they claimed the deceased HRH. Alh. Ahmadu Yakubu, regent of Ankpa gave them a go-ahead for exploration on the sites having signed a consent letter. But it turned out to be a different community, so they left for Awoakpali with their equipment.”
In Awoakpali, Adejoh, former Chairman of the community development association narrated an almost similar story. The only difference is that those whose land was captured started receiving benefits for crop losses only in 2016.
“We just saw them in the bush in November 2015 so our youths stopped them from working,” says Adejoh.
By January 2016, the mining firm had invited two community representatives – Elder Daniel Adejoh and a chief from Awoakpali to sign CDA without inputs or representation of the community’s lawyer.
“The following day, they brought the agreement drafted by the company. We were all novice. So we were compelled to sign.”
“Our only input in the former CDA is the name of the community,” Adejoh adds.
The Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIRECO) Office which represents both State and Federal officials in Kogi was reportedly in the dark, they were unaware of the agreement.
However, after the old CDA was signed, compensations were paid for the tree crops. Adejoh described the compensation as grossly inadequate, as also mentioned by another. The community leaders said they did not know that the excavations would take almost half of the community’s farmland.
The initial agreement also foot-dragged due to absence of an implementation timeline.
Meanwhile, while excavation was ongoing in Awoakpali, the Onupi Community had initiated discussions with other villages including Awoakpali to end the long exploitation and environmental losses. At this time, a year had passed.
As such, the seven host communities moved against Dangote Coalmine. They met with the Kogi State Ministry of Environment for intervention and further presented their concerns to the MIRECO which reportedly nullified the earlier CDA in 2018.
Dangote mine was eventually tasked to follow due process and the communities were advised as a group to invite their legal representatives. Barrister William Aliyu was consulted and he became the lawyer of the seven communities.
“MIRECO invited them and in the process, they cancelled the former CDA and they told us to provide a lawyer who will represent us – that is Barrister Williams Aliyu,” says Aliyu Suleiman, former Secretary of the Seven Member Committee of the host communities.
At last, the new CDA had inputs of the lawyer reflecting interests of the seven communities. It was signed and it took effect in July, 2019. But all through this period, mining was on-going.
An election was conducted among the concerned communities. Festus Ocheje from Awo emerged Chairman while an implementation committee was set up and inaugurated on 25th October.
A copy of the CDA obtained by The ICIR prior to the field visit revealed that, though coal mining in the respective communities commenced years before the new agreement, implementation would not start until five months after the pact was signed.
For instance, proposed health centres for the seven communities to be sited in Onupi and Awoakpali would commence in five months while that of boreholes started three months later.
Deeper study of the CDA also showed other anomalies such that two directors who appended their signatures on the CDA are without names or date. Moreover, a block of classrooms is to be erected for the communities within ‘first two years of operation,” starting from July 2019.
Others include reconstruction of schools also in the first two years of operation among others.
Meanwhile, the mining process commenced since 2014 and excavation in 2016 – years before the new CDA, yet community agreement took effect immediately.
Laboratory results indict Dangote mines, shows contaminated water
To ascertain the hygienic level of the provided borehole facility, The ICIR subjected the water to laboratory test. This is because community women complained of the taste.
“It tastes oily and strange,” women who were at the borehole facility told this reporter during the visit.
The essence of the test is to establish if the water body contained carcinogenic or harmful elements that could be harmful to public health such as lead or other harmful chemicals.
Initially, four samples were taken for study by the reporter from two communities Onupi and Awoakapli where active mining is taking place by the Dangote Coalmines. The samples were stream and borehole water from the communities.
But for the purpose of reliability, an independent body was later consulted by the Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), to visit the host communities for fresh samples and subsequent test.
The laboratory tested for hard metals such as Lead, Cadmium, Chromium including Sodium and Manganese among others. However, the test result showed a significant concentration of dangerous microbial elements- water and soil in comparison with the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard.
In Onupi, for instance, Lead level in the stream water was 5.21, 5.06 in the borehole while the WHO acceptable limit is 0.01. This definitely implies a high level of impurity in both water samples particularly the borehole with a slight difference from the stream water.
“The good foundation for the growth of organisms that causes illness to humans is the presence of Ammonia (NH3)15.16 & 18.25 mg/l respectively against Std 10 mg/l. The level constitutes pollution,” says James Nwachukwu, the lab service consultant. “The Lead (Pb) of 5.21 & 5.06 against 0.01 mg/l Std in the waters is very unhealthy for human consumption. Yet they consume the water for drinking and other domestic uses ignorantly.”
Moreover, the PH level of the water both stream and borehole is acidic based on the test result. The range goes from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. The PH for the stream is 6.0. For the borehole, it is 5.8 while the WHO acceptable standard is 6.0 to 9.0.
Document slides of the test results
“The colour of the River ought to be clear but turbid and yellowish, an indication of the presence of pollutant. The pH (Ion Concentration) level of both River and Borehole (6.0 & 5.8) respectively were low for human consumption because of high level of acidity. (Std 6.0-9.0) and Turbidy indicating clarity of water free from chemical and solid substances reading 15.45 River against one unit.”
“Nitrate (NO3) 61.60 & 71.20 River and Borehole respectively were high against 50 Std which its presence encourages the multiplication of bacteria causing health implications to human-being.”
Meanwhile, in terms of job offer, Ahmadu, the community representative to Awoakpali said 80 per cent of employees from the community are casuals. Dominic from Onupi shared same story stressing that there are graduates in the community, yet they are engaged as casual staffs.
Benedict Otonu, 50, used to be one of the casual workers until he died in October. He was buried alive during a landslide at the mining site. He was buried with two heavy-duty machines and was recovered almost 24 hours after the incident. By that time, he was dead.
Though, Dangote initially denied the incident, a paltry sum of N200, 000 was later offered to the family as compensation, aside from his last month salary of N29, 700.
More talks less commitment to climate actions
Nigeria is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change with a commitment to reducing carbon emission significantly to the pre-industrial level. As at 2019, 196 countries have appended their signatures.
Nigeria further ratified and pledged through its Nationally Determine Contributions (NDCs) to promote clean energy, end gas flaring by 2030, shift mode of transportation from car to bus among other climate actions as part of its commitments to the global pact.
But despite its promise of commitment to the Paris agreement, federal government still promotes investments in fossil fuels and other dirty energies. Coal can be used to generate power. The Dangote Coalmine, for instance, uses the excavated coals to power its cement factory as an alternative electricity source. It is particularly one of the contributors to ozone layer depletion through the methane it generates.
In 2017, Nigeria also pledged to generate 30 per cent of its power from coal. As such, aside from the Green Bond, and recent renewable energy projects from the Rural Electrification Agency, Nigeria has done so less to reduce carbon emission and global temperature from rising beyond agreed 1.5 Degree Celsius.
The United Nations body on climate change among other global experts attributed human actions to increasing change of climate and its adverse effects. These effects have led to rising sea level, flooding, extreme weather conditions and drought. And Nigeria is among the most hit due to low adaptation and resilient measures.
Forged EIA, fear of the billionaire, weak enforcements – many reasons government looked sideway
Though Dangote Coal Mine is duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), it failed to comply with the guiding principles of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act at the project onset.
“(1) The public or private sector of the economy shall not undertake or embark on or authorise projects or activities without prior consideration, at an early stage, of their environmental effects.
“(2) Where the extent, nature or location of a proposed project or activity is such that it is likely to
significantly affect the environment, its environmental impact assessment shall be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of this Act,” Section 2 (1)(2) of the Act states.
But the content of the purported EIA titled Environmental Management Plan for Ankpa Coal Field is marred with irregularities. While Dangote Coalmine is a different entity within the Group of companies, in the document, the firm extracted copies of previous EIA meant for Dangote Cement for the Dangote Coalmine.
For instance, a copy of the claimed EIA obtained by The ICIR revealed that the EIA was not specifically done for the Dangote Coalmine in Onupi and Awoakpali but carried the name Ankpa Coal Field.
In fact, a highly placed source in the Environment Assessment Division, the Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja who checked the document said the mining company lacked an EIA – they are into an ‘illegal operation.’ He described the study presented to the host community in the guise of an EIA, as “rubbish”, adding, “This is Chapter Seven of an EIA. To tell you it is rubbish, it is not even an Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
“Look at it, they blotted the top. It is a pre-feasibility report. Finally, they did not blot one…they are not even supposed to sign the CDA without and EIA.”
“It is an illegal operation.”
“They may have a mining permit from the mines ministry and they proceeded with mining but it is wrong. They are supposed to get EIA approval and the essence is to involve the community”.
Initially, before checking the document, he was hopeful saying for there to be an EMP, there must be an EIA. But he was shocked when he saw several anomalies. “And they are mining?” he queried.
He wondered how the federal ministry of mines and solid minerals development could issue a license without proper EIA. The ICIR then wrote to the minister to officially affirm the source’s findings. The letter was both acknowledged by the ministry and the EIA department but till date no response was provided.
Amazingly, the purported EIA was prepared in August 2014 and submitted 30th April, 2015.
Footers of some pages of the document had Dangote Cement Plc, dated April 2014.
Other pages had inscriptions of Dangote Industries Limited while the headers of selected pages had Pre-Feasibility Report – Dangote Coalmine. All these were visibly noticed by the environment ministry’s top official.
The EIA is a compulsory study about the social and environmental impacts of a proposed project. It is usually a joint study conducted by an environmental consultant with inputs from experts, host communities and relevant government officials to examine whatever impacts the coal mining project might have on the people socially, environmental wise as well as mitigation measures.
“Essence of EIA, before the project commences at all is to evaluate, assess and come up with environmental concerns of the proposed development,” John Alonge, Director, Environmental Assessment at the Federal Ministry of Environment said when the reporter earlier met with him in his office located at the brown building in Abuja.
But he expressed concerns that over effluents from the mines washed to the stream and farmlands, saying it might be an issue of concern.
“…There is nothing you do that does not have a footprint.” He adds. “Coal will eventually have direct contact with soil, water and air. The nature of the project will then determine which of the EIA you will engage in.
“For coal, it is an excavation and the big issue at the end of the day is pollution of underground water. The lake you will leave behind after excavation is an issue, it will become a death trap and the process of processing what you mined also becomes an issue.”
He couldn’t categorically respond if the Coalmine has an EIA.
We will work with the Ministry of mines – Environment Minister
On 3rd December, The ICIR approached Sharon Ikeazor, the Minister of State for Environment on dangerous effects of continuous coal exploration in the country, particularly in host communities such as Awoakpali despite the 2015 Paris Agreement.
“We are looking into that with the ministry of mines and steel development on how that can end,” she tersely told the reporter.
For several times, the community members denied being involved in the EIA process. “Our community was not contacted. We didn’t know about it but we have complained about the EIA for a very long time,” Abraham Dominic, Secretary of Onupi Community says. “We later heard they went to Awo but they did not come to our side.”
Marcus Okigbo, Awoakpali Community Chairman was particularly furious about the alleged exclusion of his community from the EIA process. He frowned at the presented study saying it was not detailed as expected compared with other firms working within the same local government.
“They claimed to have conducted the EIA but we don’t know about it so we concluded it has been doctored, therefore it is not originally ours,” says Okigbo.
On November 26th, one of the senior staffs of the MMSD, spoke anonymously with The ICIR in Abuja. He has been in the sector for over 15 years. According to him, he could tell the EIA was not conducted because it is a multi-stakeholder process that involves input from the community, experts as well as the federal ministry of environment.
This was prior to the revelation discovered on 5th December at the environment ministry.
Based on information received from the villages, he said, no one from the community was reached for the EIA.
“…pollution from dust could affect their hearts, body and the breathing makes them asthmatic. These may not be immediate but gradually, it will happen. Toxins from the mine would cause some new ailments the people are not used to,” the source adds.
“What of the surface water? It has been polluted. They ought to assess the extent of these damages to the community and possible resolutions. Is it something they will relocate the people, is it something that can be avoided or something the community could be compensated for? If it’s something inevitable then there should be a kind of treatment to be offered to the villagers periodically to prevent the occurrence of diseases due to the mining activity – that is the essence of EIA.”
Interestingly, findings revealed that often time, rather than mining companies to conduct the EIA, they prefer to pay a paltry sum of about N1 million levies for non-compliance. The Act is weakened by poor regulation and enforcement. Since 1992, the EIA Act is just being reviewed this year.
“…the levy is a bit ridiculous but the ministry is trying to do an upward review. And the Act is already in the National Assembly,” Alonge adds.
Earlier, an official of the Department who was also willing to provide information on the EIA suddenly halted his decision upon hearing the name Dangote Coalmine. “That one, you need to write officially through the freedom of information request,” the source told the reporter. “It is only my Director that can give you that answer directly.”
Mining Ministry – ‘Anything about Dangote is power from above’
On 25th November, outcome of the investigation was shared with Ayodeji Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the Minister of MMSD. He could not give a comment but said he would need to speak with the Permanent Secretary of the ministry on the matter.
The same day, Edwin Okpara, MMSD Director of Information was also contacted and presented with evidence gathered so far. He was initially speechless. He later queried if the N200, 000 offered by the Dangote Coalmine as compensation was given to a “human being,” when intimated about the case of late Benedict Etonu who died working in the mine.
But then, Okpara promised to take the reporter to the Director of Mining to authenticate if the mining firm was registered and if the ministry is officially aware of the death of late Etonu.
“…we have mining officers in charge of each States,” says Okpara. “The director will call on his staffs since you said you know the place. You will go and dig deep and find out. If it is true, you will send a report and based on that report, he will give you an answer. That’s how civil service works.”
Okpara later took the reporter to one of the Directors in the ministry if he could respond to the report. Upon hearing the name Dangote, the Director swiftly referred the reporter to another Director who was said to be in the United Kingdom as at the period.
“Anything that has to do with Dangote, na power from above o,” the director tersely said adding that the concerned director would not return until two weeks at most. The reporter was asked to wait until he returns.
On 10th December, more than two weeks after, Okpara, the ministry’s spokesperson was further contacted based on prior appointment. However, he claimed to be out of Abuja. He was asked if the Director of Mining had returned from the UK trip to respond to the findings. “I don’t know. I’m out of Abuja.” He told The ICIR and ended the call.
Adeyemi, the minister’s media aide was also contacted for the second time, but he advised the reporter to write to the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the ministry. This was after initial promise to personally meet with the PS. The ICIR, however, called his attention to previous pledge but he insisted he could not comment without the PS directive despite working as an aide to the minister.
“It does not work like that. Before I can speak on any issue, I need to get go-ahead from the perm sect, not from the minister.” Ironically, this was the same statement he made before promising to meet with the PS during the first visit.
Regulator’s unusual silence over findings
The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is the agency of government legally empowered to protect the environment with actionable sanctions but over the years, it has not significantly achieved this mandate even after its Act was reviewed.
Sule Oyofo, NESREA Director of Information, when contacted on the report referred this reporter to Mrs. Miranda Amachre, Director in Charge of Inspection and Enforcement. Repeated calls were made to her phone line provided by Oyofo but she did not respond to either calls or messages sent to her.
Prof. Aliyu Jauro, NESREA DG was repeatedly contacted over the matter but he did not respond to phone calls and text messages sent to his line.
The agency is notorious for not responding to environmental issues as it affects the people. Several reports on pollution and a similar one on coal mining had been done with no significant action taken by the regulatory body.
Nigeria’s unwavering love for coal…Minister seeks more investors on coal to generate power
Findings revealed that Nigeria is still very committed to increasing investments in coal exploration mainly to generate power despite efforts by environmentalists to promote clean energy. It has been a one-sided move by the government authorities to reduce carbon emissions. While an agency or ministry attempts to adhere to the Paris agreement, others pursue investments in fossil fuels.
On 10th December, Architect Olamilekan Adegbite the minister of mines and steel development revealed on national television how the government has been canvassing for foreign investment in mining as well as efforts to encourage young persons to invest in coal for power generation. He disclosed that coal could be explored in 23 states across the country rather than the popular belief of its rich deposit in Enugu State.
“…in the ministry, when we attend foreign summits, we advertise that and we want investors to come in and use coal to generate power because there is a lot of power deficiency in the country…” says Adegbite.
He bragged about companies in the country currently mining coals for electricity generation especially in Kogi and Enugu states. “There are companies already in Nigeria using coal to power their plants in Kogi and Enugu.”
“Now everybody is going off fossil fuel to electric cars, artificial intelligence, but these are the minerals Nigeria will use because we have plenty of them…”
Experts criticise, government’s policy on coal, Dangote’s Coalmining despite Nigeria’s NDCs to reduce carbon emissions
Founder of Climate Tracker, Chris Wright advised that coal mining should be the last thing the Nigerian government should be promoting. “Mining for coal is very dangerous to the miners and the surrounding communities because to dig up coal, you need to use a lot of chemicals, explosives depending on the type of environment and to do that, it has a lot of impacts on the local communities particularly air pollutions,” he said reacting to the story.
“Air pollution around coal mines directly affects young and old people in the communities and global effects.”
He encouraged the government to ban coal plants or the use of coals for power generation due to its impacts on global warming and climate change. According to him, even if it is being excavated for exports, it would do almost the same harm.
“I am from Australia. Our economy is built on coal for almost 100 years…but what we have learnt over the years is that it has a global impact.
“Burning coal affects people all around the world through the impacts of climate change and it’s becoming a global crisis.
“Anthony Guterres has said he doesn’t want to see any more coal plants after 2020. If Nigeria wants to build coal plants, they are going directly against the executive secretary of the United Nations. So coal mining or building coal plants are about the last thing you should do now if you care about the people and the environment.”
David Michael, Development Expert and the Executive Director of GIFSEP criticised the government’s resolve to still permit investment in coal and coal exploration for alternative power generation despite its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.
As shared by senior public officials in both ministries of environment and mining, Michael adduced his voice on how coal destroys host communities through pollution of surface and groundwater including agricultural produce.
“The pros and cons of coal mining show it is the people who lose most especially the vulnerable groups,” says Terungwa. “coal mining from exploration to washing, transporting and burning the coal all have implications.
But he observed that Nigeria hurriedly signed the Paris Agreement without careful consideration of the implications. According to him, five years after, the nation has not achieved much except for the green bond.
However, he advised total utilisation of gas being flared in the Southern part of the country, aside from its contribution to ozone layer depletion; it could be used to power homes for rural energy as well as generated much electricity for the nation, thus contributing to economic development and the Paris agreement.
“If Dangote whose company is currently mining coal in Nigeria decides to invest in renewable energy in the production of batteries and solar panels, just imagine the huge market in Africa. So you are solving a lot of problems. It is not for him to teach us in a bad way looking for a quick fix while causing even greater problems.
“Many people from Lafarge, Dangote cement shareholders will be smiling to the bank while the communities where the coal is being mined are crying every day. I’m sure many of the shareholders don’t know this is what is happening but you cannot sacrifice the environment and human life for profits.”
Dangote Coalmine reacts – It’s a lie host communities are not polluted
“We are tired of this report on the pollution of water. We are tired. We have been paying tax to the state government,” Jibrin said. Apparently, the community had repeatedly complained over the concern. “What did they ask? We made seven boreholes yet they are still talking of pollution.”
He queried further where the heavy metals which polluted the water came from. He was told of the stream and the borehole provided by the Dangote coalmine. But in a swift response, he charged The ICIR to engage an expert before proceeding with the report unknown that an expert had conducted a study on the samples.
“…as far as we are concerned, there is no report from the community to the office that their water is polluted. So if they want to report to the air (media) let them go ahead.”
Responding, the reporter shared how the community relayed its complaints to the firm and Dangote Coalmine’s responses to the worries. The complaints, the reporter said forced the mining firm to direct the awarded contractor to fix the polluted borehole facility, yet the problem lingers.
At this point, the coordinator was quiet.
The ICIR further shared how an independent consultant was commissioned to take the water samples for the test which the result showed high Lead content in both samples – stream water and the borehole facility. The soil was as well tested.
“They tested the water?” the coordinator queried. “And you have the test result? Where is the lead coming from? Let me tell you. I am a Chemist. And I have a chart containing all the solid minerals in Kogi state. Lead is not in Kogi, if their lead is coming from the atmosphere, no problem.”
Reacting to the EIA, he directed the reporter to the corporate headquarters of the Dangote group, Lagos with reference to the environmental department. He said they would provide the right response. Though, he was told of the findings from the ministry of environment. “You find out technical things from them.”
On the CDA, Jibrin still insisted on contacting the environmental department, saying he can’t respond to ‘technical questions’.
However, he disclosed that the late Etonu’s family would be offered N1 million as compensation. He clarified that the initial N200, 000 was for the burial arrangement. “The N200, 000 is not the compensation. The money given to them was for burial expenses. It is a flat rate given to all staffs who are bereaved. The actual amount to be given to the immediate family will be N1 million.”
“It has been approved. I’m not sure but anytime from now.”
But regarding the EIA and CDA, Corporate Communications Department of the Dangote Group was contacted via its corporate email – email@example.com found on the firm’s official website but it failed and bounced back.
However, while mining activities still persist in the affected Kogi communities, the least federal government could do is to ensure strict compliance with the flouted regulations – EIA Act, Mining Act, NESREA Act among others with hope that the federal ministry of environment, as promised by Ikeazor will genuinely work with the mines ministry to end the continuous environmental hazards caused by coal mining in the country.
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