Prof. Sam Ugwu, the Enugu State Commissioner for Environment and Climate Change, has bemoaned the severe environmental harm caused by illegal coal miners in the state.
The Commissioner, who also serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Review of Mining Activities in Enugu State, made the announcement on Monday while conducting an environmental assessment and enforcing the state order sealing the sites of alleged illegal mining activities in the communities of Nsude and Akwuke in the Udi and Enugu South Local Government Areas, respectively.
The Commissioner, who was leading a team of experts alongside the Special Adviser to the Governor on Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Kingsley Nnaji, warned that illegal deforestation, diversion of water bodies, and degradation of hundreds of hectares of land by miners could cause an ecological disaster if nothing was done to prevent further unregulated mining activities in the state.
“It is unfortunate that this kind of damage is taking place in Enugu State without the approval of the Enugu State Government,” he says.
“It’s heartbreaking. The government is not pleased, and we will continue in this manner until all mining sites in Enugu State are closed. It has caused significant environmental harm.
“It will take many years for Enugu State to recover from this massive environmental damage.”
“We’re very concerned about what’s going on, so we’re sealing them.” These criminal activities are abhorrent. There will be no further activities at this location. We will be watching them in the morning and evening to verify that the areas we have sealed are not tampered with.”
While serving the miners with a letter of invitation, Ugwu stated that those with authentic mining licences, approvals, and other evidence of conformity with normal practice should attend the State Government for verification.
He also urged real investors who want to engage in the energy and minerals sectors of the economy to approach the state through the established channels, stating that the government was committed to make the state more appealing to investors.
Meanwhile, residents and communities across the state have continued to oppose the illegal miners’ activities, alleging that the miners had threatened them with security agencies and criminal arrests by operatives illegally attached to protect them at various sites.
They demanded the arrest and prosecution of individuals responsible for environmental destruction, claiming that the miners had no stake in the state because the majority of them were not from there, despite the fact that the coal was being transported outside of Enugu State for industrial use and export.
Engr Amara Victor, a state environmental specialist, said the mining activities should be viewed as a ticking time bomb that would cause ecological and environmental disaster if the state government did not take decisive action to force the closure of those locations.
Engr Raphael Edeh, a soil and environmental impact assessor who has been following the trends of illegal mining activities, urged the government to go after the culprits destroying the state and the insiders who are collaborating with them, warning that landslides and earthquakes could occur soon if no proactive measures were taken.
He stated that the environment in particular towns was currently degraded to the point that farming operations and water could no longer be considered acceptable for drinking because miners had already ruined their sources.
A number of heavy-duty trucks, excavators, caterpillars, coal-loaded trailers, and other apparatus utilized for alleged illegal mining activities were found at the mining sites in Nsude and Akwuke.