Thursday, April 17, 2008

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.

In addition to Australian investors, Nigeria is also being wooed by Chinese and Indian mining interests that hope to develop the nation's mining industry. The Minister, Sarafa Isola, also stated that the federal government studied other coal powered countries, such as South Africa and Canada, to ensure that internationally accepted practices and standards are adopted and observed by Nigeria's mining industry.

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.

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.

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.

Further Reading:
- Power Blackouts Loom Across Nigeria
- Nigerian Power Scandal: Authority Stealing
- Solar Energy Plans
- Who Will Develop Nigeria?
- Who Will Develop Nigeria Pt. 2

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Sugabelly said...

I'm sorry but it's far too late for us to be looking at coal as a source of energy. With the very real threat of global warming looming, it would be BEYOND IRRESPONSIBLE to burn coal and release thousands of tons more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and speed it up.

We would just be signing our own death warrant by using coal. This is a lesson and punishment to Nigeria because at the time when we were supposed to use coal for energy we ignored it and danced over the new-found oil. Now we need energy and our oil reserves aren't that great but our hands are tied because using coal would compound the effects of global warming that we are already experiencing.

Strike One!

They should deal with PHCN. They created this mess, they should bloody fix it and leave coal the hell alone before they kill us in their desperation.

Waffarian said...

Coal is a nasty, dirty business and guess who will suffer? Yes! you guessed right. The poor man.

Did I hear you say they will have international standards? I hate to be cynical, but ehhhhhh our airports are still "trying" to meet international standards...and we thank God our governemnet people like "flying" pass their work...if not, na local standard we for dey...talkless of the dark caves where their agbada no go ever reach!

They should let the poor man be, before putting more health wahala on his head that he will never be able to get treatment for.

guerreiranigeriana said...

i don come with my cynical hat on o!!!...i would like to try to be positive but with this one, i can not even try to fake it... lie o!!!!...didn't you just talk about forgiveness and how that leads to us allowing the fuckery the govt continues to dole out?...maternal and child health is still deplorable in naija...nneoma was talking about how no attention is paid to lifestyle diseases (heart and lung disease caused by coal mining would be included) because of HIV/AIDS and other wonderful infectious diseases...abeg, where is the health care system anyway?...what equipment will even be used to accurately measure and diagnose such disorders?...and then what pharmacy will carry the unadulterated version of the prescription drug?...and now you want to tell me that people should go and mine coal?...omo, go and sit down o!!!...if this isola would allow his son or daughter to mine this coal, then okay...i'm sure he would not...

...when the coal is mined, what roads will they use to move the coal to where it will be burned?...the same roads with gaping and treacherous potholes?...and where will the money come from to commission that endeavor?...weren't there some turbines sitting somewhere, unused because there wasn't money to transport them?...nonsense... many stories have we heard about people being buried in mines?...all over the the us and in that china sef...around the world!!...most mine owners are known for NOT meeting standards...and when has the mere attempt to meet international standards ever proven sufficient?...

...sorry, but with global warming, there is no rationale to excuse the burning of coal...NONE!...and hoping that these foreign investors will assist in other aspects is as stupid as believing your husband when he says he won't beat you again (although this is the third time he has beat you this week and it is only thursday)...if you don't believe, just go and see the delta region of naija...or ask the indigenous people living in what is left of the amazon forest-the ones who haven't been killed off...

...the problem of power supply will not, i repeat, WILL NOT be solved by the mining of coal...the problem is more to do with corruption than anything else...kai...are the people in govt really this stupid?!...or is it that those their eyes will never see clearly?!...ahn!!...i am highly incensed by this news... do we start the letter writing and petition campaign to this fool isola to voice our disdain and diapproval of this hypothesized endeavor-for the preservation of our nation's environmental integrity, people's health and our posterity?...

shhhh said...

coal aint safe for the environment and the air we breathe in. we need to deal ruthlessly with the cabals aborting power consumption in nigeria

N.I.M.M.O said...

Please tell me its not true. Are you serious? You mean he really said so? Like Calabar Gal would say 'You're joking me'.


Maybe if we had currently working, efficiently run coal mines; maybe if the mines we have can be upgraded to meet even the minimum standards in the world; maybe if somebody had thought of it about thirty years ago and set up power generating plants in those areas where the coal deposits are. Maybe.

But why do we just like to deceive ourselves in this country. Our penchant for policy flip-flops must be known worldwide by now.

We dont seem to have any policy direction in anything. Today we want to use gas, tomorrow its solar, next day its coal. Someday, it will be urine!

I'm sure that if we monitor the papers for the next one month, the same Minister will tell us that the government is thinking about using opium for power generation if a bunch of Afghan 'investors' come a-visiting.

I mean dont they even think about what they say before saying it? Are there any official blue-print for Ministers and public servants to follow?

A few months ago, there was a debate on passing a deadline for gas-flaring in order for the country to utilize the gas for power generation and domestic purposes. The deadline was for December 2007 but it was pushed till December 2008.

Everybody heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, we thot, we will be able to harness the resource effectively.

You see, we have been flaring gas for close to fifty years now. Wasting a major resource on which some countries' economies are built.

As a fuel, gas is cheaper than coal. It is also cleaner than coal.

As a resource, it is more plentiful than coal. We have billions of cubic feet of gas. 1.386 billion pounds worth is small given our energy requirements. But we can sell.

You see the Australians, Chinese and Indians who are wooing are doing so to get a source of raw materials for their own coal powered machinery which were built more than fifty years ago. Why do we want to copy a one-fifty year old technology in this 21st century biko nu?

If they need the coal so badly, we can sell to them. They can set up and mine it under bilateral extractive agreements but we do not need to set up coal-fired power stations right now.

Even the South Africans are gradually moving away from coal-power but because they are a major producer and they have a thriving mining industry which they have been able to manage for about a century now.

Why do we want to invest in a venture in which we have no comparative advantage?

It would make more sense if people are encouraged to invest in the mining industry as a whole - for all the solid minerals available in Nigeria.

Maybe then, the mining industry would be powered by coal.

That would be talking!

For the love of me said...

I think that all the people in power should be flushed out as they are obviously not thinking. Coal ke, Abasi akan!
We have not recovered from the pollution caused by oil and now we want to add coal? Just take a trip to the Nigerdelta and see the curse of the oil. They can no longer fish cos the rivers are polluted, the pollution is making them so sick, I could go on and on. And please lets not dare talk international standard, Let's start first with international standard medical care, that way Yardy can stop flying to Germany to treat cough.
They should solve the present problem with PHCN. where is the 16billion supposedly spent? After all the senate probing what next? We have not yet recovered from the lost 16billion, we want to sink in another God knows how much into some coal project.

And when will we learn, Nigeria? China, Australia, America, England, they do not mean well. Things are still as they were in the days of slavery/colononization.Bible in one hand, sword in another.
Now they come with the offer of power, abeg, what is in the other hand this time?

Nigerians shine your eyes.

uNWrItten* said...

Coal is probably not the wisest and healthiest idea but Nigeria has no other would probably be the next best thing..
But as we all Nigeria has a way of abusing its natural resources so.....

Thanks for stopping by my blog...:)

Anonymous said...

If Nigeria should be an environmentally conscious nation; the use of coal shouldn't be on the agenda at all. There's room for biofuel / biomass / wind and solar in power generation. This should be the direction forward.

The problem seen in the power sector is a symptom of a systemic disorder prevalent in the general Nigerian public sector -it is not primed to handle a complicated and multifaceted project like the NIPP. And it is not a suprise - we saw the same thing with NITEL and mobile phones.

The solution is simple: empower the private sector. The government could have invested the $10-16 billion USD spent so far in a partnership deal some Nigerian start-ups rather than handing out cash to some rogue companies. How about that?

Kiibaati said...

My headache with Nigeria's energy crises is that we are doing nothing about it. It's like the whole world is running a marathon and we are practising the "backslide" dance steps.OBJ squandered a treasure chest of goodwill.Let us pray Yardy will do better; it is too easy to improve when nothing has been done previously.

webround said...

"....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....."

its' called technology transfer and there are two parts to it. One, goverment has to include this in the agreement and be ready to implement it.
Two, the people (Nigerians) have to be willing to learn, ask questions, show a serious apetite for knowledge. I've worked with a few people who simply didn't care so far as the work got done and they got paid.

Marin said...

I am happy to see that I am not the only cynical one. Coal ko, coal ni.

Personally, I'm tired of reading about what is being planned for the power sector. Today, its solar energy, tomorrow its the gas that is being flared that will save the sector, on a third day, its biomass. I wish they would implement any one, at least it'll be a starting point. I realise that the best solution will probably be a mixture of different forms of energy generation, but they have to start somewhere. Its been almost a year since Yar'adua got into power, no state of emergency has been declared, work has not even started at all, only hot wind every time.

Seriously, if implemented with the latest engineering innovations, coal can be used to generate energy in an environmentally friendly way. There are coal gasification plants all over the western worls that still manage to adhere to environmental regulations. But I don't trust our government to see things through properly.

The average Nigerian on the street would just wants to have electricity, green or not. It can't be worse than some of the fumes from generators and from kerosene lamps can it?

t said...

Awesome blog. New design and everything...Props, lady.
Funny how I don't feel qualified to decide on this power thing, but gut feeling is no to coal as the answer. The need for power in Nigeria is so great that it needs a one shot answer, like a nuclear plant not one coal plant then another then another...Supplement that if you wish with all the fun solar, Kainji dam, whatever.
Whatever the answer is in Naija, it has to be a simple one-shot thing, otherwise "they" will thief all the money away launch by launch year by year.
...Guess I am sort of qualified.
Y'all already talked about the screw up coal would be on the land and air.

Sherri said...

going back in time?
that is ridiculous!

TheAfroBeat said...

I still think SOLAR energy is the lowest hanging fruit at the moment, and i doubt the sun is running away anytime soon. But as you pointed out, we've got tonnes of coal sitting around so why not!

Don Thieme said...

I do not know much about coal in Nigeria or west Africa in general. Nigerians would certainly be wise not to allow mining for export, in any case.

Dojaa said...

Yes coal can be a power solution for Nigeria.... the problem is that Nigeia has a very bad record when it comes to health and safety matters so I hate to think what will happen if there is any kind of accident while coal is being mined in Nigeria.

ababoypart2 said...

The politics behind coal may just get in the way. I think it shouldn't be dismissed for any of these reasons, we need a viable solution to our power problems and coal should be considered.

Chxta said...

Very good article I must say, but y'all haven't considered a tiny, little fact of the matter: NEPA (or PHCN as it is called nowadays) is made up of three arms, generation, transmission and distribution.

NEPA also supplies power to regions outside Nigeria most notably parts of Mali, Niger, Benin and even Ghana. Yet these regions have more constant power than Nigeria. That leaves me with only one conclusion: there is no problem per se with the generation and transmission arms of NEPA, but with the distribution arm. That is what we need to fix.

Beauty said...

I will not dig into the Al Gore brigade on global warming in order to keep this short. Nigerian politicians just like their daft counter parts from everywhere else take on a scientific subject that they poorly understand, and use that as a hobby horse toward their political ends.

Here is a future history; In the 21st Century while the rest of Planet Earth was looking for alternative sources of reusable energy, an Australian mining delegation visited the largest oil producer in Africa and the eleventh largest in the world to discuss the techniques of coal mining that Britain developed in the 18th century.

How horrible is that?

soulchild said...

All u people saying coal dis or coal dat or too late , global warming... before you start with u usual negativity why don't you come up with a better plan or an alternative plan or means of producing power but instead you're criticizing a very good plan and leaving the country in the current state it is in. have you all ever thought of if there was a constant power supply in nigeria and the development it will bring to the country including job opportunities? so if you hate or dislike the plan den come up with a better plan. And with all the global warming pandering why are most of these great nations using there coal sources of energy still? anyways i hope and pray the government succeeds with its plan because that will be the beginning of our progress.

Anonymous said...

i definately agree with soulchild

Anonymous said...

definitely coal-fired power station has disadvantages. But can you give a better solution to solve nigerian power supply problem?

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