By Tony Adibe
The Enugu State Commissioner for Environment and Climate Change, Prof. Sam Ugwu, has bemoaned the extensive damage illegal coal miners had done to the environment in the state.
The Commissioner, who is the Chairman of the Committee on Review of Mining Activities in Enugu State, disclosed this on Monday, while carrying out environmental assessment and enforcement of the state order sealing the sites of the illegal mining activities at Nsude and Akwuke communities, both in Udi and Enugu South Local Government Areas, respectively.
Leading a team of experts alongside the Special Adviser to the Governor on Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Kingsley Nnaji, Prof. Ugwu said the illegal deforestation, diversion of water bodies and degradation of hundreds of hectares of land by the miners could trigger ecological disaster, if nothing was done to prevent further unregulated mining activities in the state.
NewsBits reports that at the mining sites at Nsude and Akwuke were a number of heavy-duty trucks, excavators, caterpillars, coal-loaded trailers, among other machinery used for the illegal mining activities.
The Commissioner said: “It is unfortunate that this kind of damage is going on in Enugu State without the approval of the Enugu State Government. It is very, very sad. The government is not happy about it, and we will continue this way till we close all the mining sites in Enugu State. It has caused a lot of ecological damage.
“It will take many years for Enugu State to recover from this humongous damage on our environment. We are really worried about what is going on, and we are sealing them. These criminal acts are unacceptable. There will be no more activities here. We will be monitoring them morning and evening and ensure the places we have sealed are not tampered.”
However, Prof. Ugwu, while serving a letter of invitation on the miners, said those with genuine mining licences, approvals, and other evidence of compliance with the standard practice should visit the State Government for verification.
He further called on genuine investors who are willing to invest in the energy and minerals sector of the economy to approach the state through the laid down process, maintaining that the government was interested in making the state attractive for investors by derisking investment flow.
Meanwhile, residents and communities across the state have continued to protest the activities of the illegal miners, saying that the miners had been threatening them with security agencies and unlawful arrests by operatives illegally attached to protect them at the various sites.
They called for the arrest and prosecution of those destroying the environment, insisting that the miners had no stake in the state as most of them were not from the state even as the coal was being transported outside Enugu State for industrial use and export purposes.
An environmental expert in the state, Engr. Amara Victor, said the mining activities should be taken as a time-bomb that would trigger ecological and environmental catastrophe if the state government didn’t take decisive steps to enforce the closure of those sites.
Engr. Raphael Edeh, a soil and environment impact assessor, who had been following the trends of the illegal mining activities, called on the government to go after the culprits destroying the state and the insiders colluding with them. He added that the state could soon experience landslides and earthquake if no proactive measure was taken.
He said the environment in certain communities were presently contaminated such that farming activities and water could no longer be safe for drinking as the miners had already destroyed their sources.