During a recent visit of an Australian mining delegation, Nigeria's Minister of Mines & Steel Development announced that the Yar'Adua administration plans on tapping into Nigeria's coal resources as a means to satisfy power needs.
NIGERIA NEEDS ENERGY...
Most well-meaning Nigerians support efforts to improve the current power deficit Nigeria is experiencing. If Nigeria has coal, of which it apparently has 1.386 billion pounds worth of coal deposits, then it might just be time to use this resource to the nation's benefit. Clearly, Nigeria must diversify its power-generation portfolio. Recent power problems have revealed that the reliance on oil and hydroelectric dams for power have suffered due to interruptions in oil output/supply, severe dry seasons and of course, pure corruption. The use of coal in some parts of the country would therefore, be a beneficial use of natural resources for power generation.
However, the federal government cannot ignore the obvious fact that coal is not a sustainable energy source and its mining and use are very detrimental to the environment. The "un-earth friendly" character of coal has hindered the completion of the Kyoto Protocol. And disagreements over the rights to use coal continue to be a lightening rod in international environment discussions. As such, any measures to tap into this resource must be done with the utmost detail and dedication to limit the negative environmental effects.
HUMAN IMPACT OF COAL MINING
Mining is not just environmentally unfriendly, it is also extremely dangerous. On average, coal mining is one of, if not the, most dangerous profession. China, for instance, recorded an average of 5602-6995 coal mining deaths every year between 1996 and 2006. Although Isola has promised that Nigeria's mining industry will meet international standards, that does not change the fact that mining causes an incredible amount of death and other chronically fatal diseases such as heart and lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as emphysema, high blood pressure and kidney disease. As Nigeria ventures into this process, we must do our utmost best to provide the necessary support for those who will undoubtedly come down with such diseases. With the nation's health care system being in the state that it currently is, one can only wonder who will carry the brunt of the pain that coal mining will produce, despite the hopeful positive benefit of power generation that is needed to develop the nation.
ANY OTHER BENEFITS OTHER THAN POWER ARE VERY WELCOME
Furthermore, one can only hope that all these foreign investors that will 'help' Nigeria tap into resources like coal will also be sharing their technology with Nigeria so that the nation can work to improve on such and other technologies for our own benefit. After all, these investors will be making significant money off our resources, so we must get something back, and not just power generation, but tangible technology. Many readers are not necessarily receptive to these demands when I make them, but I am not deterred from my belief that if Nigeria chooses to bring in foreign companies to do financially lucrative and technologically advanced work, Nigerians must also benefit, particularly by learning the technology behind the processes used.
Yar'Adua's administration will definitely be judged by its ability to meet it's promise of a Nigeria that has power to fuel its needed development. The world is still watching.
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