By Patrick Ochei
Few years ago, coal deposits were discovered in four communities in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, namely Ugboba, Obompka, Ukwu-Nzu and Ugbodu.It was later licensed for mining and MOSRA Energy Limited got the bid, hence, the commencement of mining exploration. Among these communities that the mining was to start from, only Ugboba has been able to galvanise its people together in terms of providing enabling environment in order for the activities to take off. For mining activities to take off a lot has to be put in place. Top on the list are security, peace and accommodating spirit of the communities involved. My investigation revealed that the above mentioned factors are essential, hence it is difficult for mining activities to commence without these essential factors.
I have followed up the activities of the miners even up to the coming of the then Honourable Minister for Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite during the launch of the official mining project. I had joined some of my colleagues to cover the engagement of the Minister in the State, which also created the platform for interaction with other stakeholders, including the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of MOSRA Energy Limited, Mr. Olukayode Ramos.
Recently when I started seeing some negative publications on social media about the mining activities, I became worried. My worry was not just about the negative effect of the falsehood being churned out for public consumption, but that this could either be a blackmail or the handiwork of fifth columnist desperately in need of something from the mining company. It could also be to tarnish their image unjustly. And as a thoroughbred journalist, specialising in community journalism, I decided to take an investigative trip to the mining site at Ugboba and other communities around just to unveil the story behind the story, to better inform the society of the happenings within and around the mining site.
First, the persons behind the sponsoring of the social media publications had alleged that the mining activities had caused the river water in the area to change colours and of course, causing harmful effect on the health of the people.
The above allegation had informed the decision of the Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Abuja, Senator Prince Ned Nwoko to come up with a press release on the matter, detailing his intention to engage MOSRA Energy Limited on it, as well as other sundry issues relating to the mining activities of the company.
From my perspective as a journalist during investigation, I discovered that MOSRA Energy has no issue whatsoever with Ugboba community or any other community at all. Mining is going on well at the mining site.
On a guided tour of the mining site, I discovered that the coal is not the black coal but a Lignite Coal which is called the surface coal. Meaning that before getting to the coal underground, the top soil is first removed, and then the overburden is removed and dumped on a gully deep around the mining site. One does not need to dig deep before getting the coal, and it is not like the black coal mining in Enugu or other places.
I equally gathered that, this is called “Sustainable Mining”, where the essence of mining is not to destroy the ecosystem of the land, but to regenerate it for future use. The land is regenerated to its original state after mining by covering back the deep with the top soil in order to reproduce vegetation.
I discovered that even though the mining does not have any effect on the skin, the miners have regularly watered the community to eliminate any effect of dust. The mining is done along farm road and people move about their normal businesses without complaints.
In terms of corporate social responsibility, the company has done fantastic which the community has attested to in my opinion sampling. Apart from providing the youths with employment in MOSRA Energy in Ugboba and Kogi State, engaging some of the youths in skills acquisition, providing potable water for the community, supporting the welfare of the people and others, they had also earmarked a location of about three kilometres away from the mining site to set up a power plant. The power plant will be fed with the coal to supply electricity to Ugboba and its neighbouring communities in Aniocha North LGA and indeed our country Nigeria at large.
Another interesting finding is that the MOSRA Energy Facility Site is being built also in Ugboba to facilitate the processing of the coal before being taken to the market. From the mining ground, the coal will be taken to the facility centre for crushing, afterwhich it will be weighed through the weigh bridge to determine actual quantity before being conveyed out.
One striking thing I took note of, is the fact that the rivers – Ojeokpa and Iyi-Odo they claimed to be coloured by the effect of mining, are surface water and not underground. Again, they are kilometres away from the mining site. But there is one river, in fact, a spring water directly opposite the mining site, called “Iyioku” spring water. I decided to take a stroll down the water front where I saw nature at its best. The Iyioku water is so pure, and I learnt it has been like that for centuries, traveling miles away into other surface rivers.
Now, there is no coloration of the water which is directly opposite the mining site, how then can other rivers far away be coloured by the effect of mining?
From Iyioku, I decided to move towards Obomkpa axis where my suspicion was cleared. I knew that at a time, four to five years ago, the World Bank under the NEWMAP carried out an ecological erosion control project at Obomkpa. This project took care of an aspect of Obomkpa Road with drainages which terminated at a point on the road leading to Ukwu-Nzu.
Where the road was terminated, the drainage was channelled from their towards a nearby river which then flows into Ojeokpa river as a discharge point. What I discovered here was a three-way channel: from Obompka, Ugboba and Ukwu-Nzu, the roads have drainage systems where water is channelled into nearby river, presumably in order to contain erosion flood in the area. And because of the volume of water coming from these three communities which carries lots of red sand to discharge at a nearby river point, there is no way that the mixture of the water with the red muddy flood water will not affect the colour of the river water at that point in time.
I noticed that Ukwu-Nzu on the other side is on a hill. The Government of Delta State some years ago, also constructed their main road and terminated the project at a point just before the popular Odiani Secondary School. Because of the volume of muddy flood water coming from Ukwu-Nzu too, it was always impossible accessing the school. Even students and teachers of the Odiani Secondary School or workers and patients at the community health Centre in Ukwu-Nzu can not access these two facilities when it rains.
Now, to solve this erosion challenge and link up the three communities, Ukwu-Nzu, Ugboba and Obompka on the other side, MOSRA Energy Limited has taken up the challenge of fixing the remaining part of the road of about four kilometres as its corporate social responsibility. The company had already completed drainages and now filling up the road ahead of stone base and asphalting.
When I saw what this mining company has done already, I concluded that anybody trying to blackmail them for personal benefits is an enemy of progress in these communities, particularly Ugboba, as succour has come to them, which was hitherto not being there before now. We all know how difficult those terrains had been to access.
Moreover, aside the road infrastructure and other social amenities the communities are now benefitting from MOSRA Energy Limited, the human capital development is massive. I learnt that several youths of Ugboba community are already employed by the company, working both at the Ugboba mining site and Kogi mining site. Some are even learning how to operate some of the mining equipment including their product moving trucks which are even being damaged in the process, yet the company does not mind.
We must think of the effect of the above indicators to the economy of the community. Our teeming youths are being taken off the streets, which is more important. And for other communities with deposits of the mineral resource, they should quickly fasttrack their own Community Development Agreement (CDA) in order to benefit from the massive investment that has come to the area, instead of being jealous of the one that has galvanised itself and met up with all the requirements necessary for mining activities to begin to take place.
In a nutshell, we must not forget that the mining activity is a business owned by somebody, not government. The government at the federal level only issued license to them, because they had met all the mining requirements from local government to state government and to federal government. This means that the company’s capacity had been certified overtime. But we must not forget that the company is in business to survive and also make profit for other ventures. They are doing their best to meet up with the terms of agreement with the community and governments at the three levels. They pay their tax and they also carry out corporate social responsibility to the community of Ugboba in particular, and its environs in order to create a conducive environment for their business to thrive. Otherwise, there seems to be no reason for the road project it has undertaken between Ukwu-Nzu, Ugboba and Obompka
The economic benefit for mining the coal mineral resources in these communities will be of far more beneficial to the communities than anything else. The best advice is not to destroy this opportunity but to make good use of it in the best interest of this generation and generations of the communities yet unborn.