One challenge that faces every prospective investor in Nigeria is the issue of viable power supply. President Goodluck Jonathan’s government in a bid to tackle this problem is set to harness the existing coal supply towards creating 30% supplement to power. Ruth Tene Natsa in this piece revisits the available coal and its prospects towards power generation
The Nigerian solid minerals sector has often been described as being rich in minerals endowments, particularly coal, which if properly harnessed would be a great asset to job and wealth creation, supplementary fuel and power supply as well as providing alternative revenue through royalty to government and creation of developmental services to communities that are found to be rich in minerals through community development agreements (CDAs).
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Mohammed Musa Sada, when he visited the Eta Zuma Mines, Kogi state, in 2011, was optimistic that the present government’s transformation agenda, which targets alternative funding for the nation through solid minerals development, specifically with coal, to meet government’s 30 per cent demand by year 2015, is possible through encouraging private and government partnership. He said this target would help meet present day challenges of power supply.
According to the Minister, “one of the mandates of the ministry is to see that coal is made available to serve as supplementary fuel for power development to at least 30 per cent of the energy mix of the country by the year 2015 and we can hardly achieve that without paying attention to the coal deposits in Kogi state.”
The promise by government to compliment hydro power using coal has given the nation hope that aside hydro, electric and solar power, Nigeria, through its rich coal reserves, can harness and improve power generation to compliment electricity supply to the nation.
As part of efforts towards achieving this, the minister constituted a ministerial committee headed by the director-general of the mining cadastre office (MCO), Mr Mohammed Amate, to collate and evaluate reports on coal-to-power initiatives with a view to establishing the status of the project.
The committee was also to identify the assets of the Nigerian Coal Corporation and uses of Nigerian coal in addition to power generation. The committee which submitted its report to the minister on august 6, 2013, proffered in its recommendations, the privatisation of all outstanding coal blocks, need to resolve all distracting issues that could hinder the transition from a public organisation to a private enterprise, establishment of two coal fired power plants in the first phase to be powered by the Ogboyega, Okaba and Ezimo coals as well as the resuscitation of the Oji River coal fired plant among others.
In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, chairman of the committee, Amate assured that the ministry was working towards achieving the 30 per cent coal power generation by 2015. “We are even working towards signing a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese firm. aside the fact that there are other interests, I think it is feasible,” he said.
Gearing towards efforts to meet this mandate, Sada gave the assurance that lots of interests were being shown in the development of the sector, including the interest from the initial developers of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill who in a presentation have shown that they can complete the mill and also digitise operations from manual to ensure the completion and development of the mill.
He said that the purpose of mineral exploitation is to alleviate the poverty of the people that live within the zones where the minerals are found by helping them gain employment and have access to education and health facilities. This is just as was done with the Zuma coal which before commencing operations had to sign a community development agreement to give access roads among other benefits to the communities.
Meanwhile the executive chairman of Eta Zuma Group, Dr Innocent Eta Zuma, while speaking with journalists, said there were many challenges as coal was a completely new industry to Nigeria but gave the assurance that the challenges were being adequately tackled. “We are receiving a lot of support from the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development through the minister,” Zuma said.
He was of the opinion that coal cannot take the place of power but is a good additional source of power which if properly harnessed through various governmental and private investment can lead to a succour for the power challenges Nigeria suffers today.
The chairman said that considering that the major source of power today is hydro and gas, all of them have their limitations. According to him, “Right now there is a drought; there is no water in our rivers, so even the Kainji and some of the dam do not receive enough water to power the turbines.” However, Eta Zuma was optimistic that developing and producing more coal would definitely be a good and viable supplement to power supply in Nigeria.
He said this is because there are challenges in the use of the available power and energy production and supply. “Since our gas supply is also encumbered, you find out that if you do not have adequate mix such as coal, hydro, gas and eventually nuclear, we may be lagging behind in the quantity and quality of power receivable. It is not the only source that we want to use; we want to make coal an additional source of power generation,” Zuma explained.
Eta Zuma said they intended to roll up four billion tonnes of coal. Of this figure, they had a proven production of 380 million tonnes in the first stage out of which a 100 million tonnes have been licenced for the power plant at Etobe. They also aim to produce 30 million tonnes of coal for household uses, cement companies and other uses. He said, “Today wood is being gotten at a very alarming volume which is causing desertification and erosion. We cannot tell them not cut wood and not create an alternative for them to cook.”
Reacting to the access road being constructed for the community as part of their community development agreement (CDA), he said, “We are just starting this mining and we recognise that Okobo/Enjema, Ankpa local government of Kogi is part of the bigger community. But our immediate host is Okobo. So all the development investment we are making meanwhile is in Okobo but as we move forward we have the plans to also extend our community development activities to other places including Ankpa local government .
With the likes of Zuma coal and others, there is hope that the 30 per cent alternative power supply is soon achievable and the problem of power generation and supply will soon be a thing of the past. come 2015.
Information from Leadership was used in this report.