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Communities demand closure of coalmining firm over questionable EIA

Onupa and Awoakpali, two affected communities under Ankpa Local Government Area of Kogi State, have raised an alarm over allegations of a forged Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by a mining firm operating in the area.

coal mining affected communities  Communities demand closure of coalmining firm over questionable EIA IMG 20200224 WA0000
R-L: Alfa Stephen, Chairman, Onupi Community; Aliyu Suleiman, Ex-Representative of Coal Committee; Samuel Adejoh, Secretary, Awoakpali Coal Committee; and Mrs. Agagwu Rachael, Women Leader, Awoakpali Community, during the meeting with the coal affected communities in Abuja. Photo credit: Etta Michael Bisong

Decrying the use of the document during a dialogue facilitated by the Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP) held in Abuja on Thursday, February 20, 2020, representatives of the communities lamented that the mining activities of the company has destroyed their soil, polluted water sources and generated numerous health hazards including cough and miscarriages among pregnant women.

The group wants the federal government to stop the company from proceeding with its operations as an immediate remedy to prevent further degradation of their environment as well as escalation of unimaginable health challenges.

Furthermore, the team advised the firm to provide the communities with basic amenities as required by law and stop using tax payment slips to the government as a yardstick for its poor mining practices in the locality.

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“My opinion is that if they don’t proceed with the EIA, they should suspend work for now,” said Aliyu Suleiman, a former community representative of Onupi.

He expressed displeasure over the fact that the company has being operating in their communities without a legitimate EIA that captures the aftermath of their activities on public and environmental health.

Similarly, Secretary of Awoakpali Coal Committee, Samuel Adejoh, canvassed for the reclamation of the devastated sites to enable the inhabitants resume their farming activities which is one of the primary sources of livelihood among members of the communities.

According to him, the company must also first consider the employment and integration of the indigenous people as a basic requirement to carry on with future exploration.

He listed the provision of an equipped hospital, tared roads and clean water as some of the urgently required measures to mitigate the already existing calamity bedeviling the communities.

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On his part, a representative of the civil society organisations (CSOs), Pius Oko, narrated the long team negative effects of coal mining activities such as groundwater and earthquake on the future generations and cautioned the communities to be careful while requesting for short term demands from the company.

“I want us to have the understanding that mining also affects the soil and underneath. The issues of earthquakes and landslides come later and the health concerns of miscarriages or issues that might lead to cancer and several other ailments should not be taken for granted,” Oko said.

Executive director of GIFSEP, Mike Terungwa, in his remarks submitted that his organisation would continue to advocate until the rights of the host communities are respected.

He disclosed that GIFSEP organised the roundtable as part of activities to mark the 2020 World Day of Social Justice, as well as create a platform for the affected communities to tell their stories.

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The GIFSEP boss tasked the federal government to adhere to the Mining Act and ensure the protection of the affected communities and their environment.

Terungwa advised designated authorities to consider deploying renewable energy as alternative source of energy because of the costly impacts of coal mining on the overall socioeconomic development of the country.

By Etta Michael Bisong, Abuja

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