An open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari: Reviving the solid mineral sector: coal alternative

This is the highest call to responsibility and tasks sir and we will plead with you to take up the challenge irrespective of the odds...

Coal

Dear Mr. President,

We the Class 2013 graduate of Mining Engineering, from The Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) are writing you again as a matter of patriotism, urgency, and responsibility to put our letters to you for economic consideration, development, and sustenance. It is always about Nigeria and the citizenry in which we have a part to play to make it a better home irrespective of our incapacitation to take the plunge ourselves. We hopefully believe you received the first Open Letter we wrote to you in which we sent an electronic mail copy to your Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina and also published where possible(online media). We have an unflinching hope that you will attend to the issues raised in our letters as the worries of a child to his beloved father. We have decided to communicate to you through this medium available again because our silence will do more harm than good to ourselves, our environment, posterity and the country as a whole.

We use this medium to send our regards to the Chairpersons Committee on Solid Mineral of both the Red and Green chambers. Also, to the prospective Minister of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, we welcome him to the reality of neglect of a Ministry and we hope he takes a prospective and unforgettable plunge to make a difference beyond the wall of his office and a million miles ahead of his predecessors. We hope he will not eat, drink and sleep forgetting his call of duty to posterity.

In this second Open Letter, we will love to address you about the importance of coal to our economic growth and how it can also promote an idea of shared prosperity for the millions of poor, unemployed and underemployed citizen of this prosperous nation. It will be a blatant cliché to say over 65% of the citizens are youth but the challenge we have is that most are not constructively engaged and productive, which in turn has given birth to more social vices than it was in the good old days. We are not justifying the acts of these young souls because many of us have also lived and survived hard and harsh days with nothingness but we call on your leadership to effect the change mantra in the existence of these youths to have a country which will stand tall to talk and be proud of Her beautiful, responsible, creative, innovative and strong young minds. This is the highest call to responsibility and tasks sir and we will plead with you to take up the challenge irrespective of the odds. The world is moving but where is Nigeria moving towards?

Mr. President, Coal was discovered in Enugu in 1908 by a team of British geological explorers led by Sir Albert Kitson but actual mining did not start until 1915. By 1917, over 3000 men were working in the Enugu Colliery, but the discovery of Crude Oil on our soil has caused us more damage than good. After the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, every other areas where revenues were generated sharply down-streamed in which the major ones are Agriculture (Cocoa Production to be precise) and Solid Mineral sector (Coal and Steel production). It is disheartening and disappointing that the production of Coal went down between 1950 and 1970 from 583,425 metric tons to a record low of 24,404 metric tons for no reason than the sweetness of Oil whilst the present day data for production of coal cannot be ascertained because of lack of solid mineral exploration and exploitation data. Anyways, we are not ready to dwell on the past, our major focus is on the present day coal that we have in Nigeria and how we are going to make maximum use of it to stabilize the current state of the economy and reduce to the barest minimum our overall dependence on crude oil, increase our power sector, brace up our steel industry, boost the agricultural sector with the production of ammonia fertilizer among other important uses of coal. Just for the record Mr. President, Coal plays a vital role in meeting global energy needs and is critical to infrastructure development; over 40% of the world’s electricity and 70% of the world’s steel is produced using coal.

Mr. President, Nigerian Coal is one the most bituminous in the world owing to its low sulphur and ash content and therefore the most environment friendly. The indicated reserve spread across 13 states cannot be ascertained due to lack of adequate exploration data but it is assumed as nearly 3 billion tonnes in 21 identified coal fields in which 16 are sub-bituminous coal fields, 2 bituminous coal fields and 3 lignite coal fields; and over 600 million tonnes of proven reserves. Likewise, Nigeria has the largest lignite deposit in Africa, with reserves of about 50 million tonnes. Our coal also has low thermoplastic properties, making it very attractive for power generation while a large percentage of the masses sleep, wake and dine insecurely in gross darkness because of just a neglect of a resourceful solid mineral and a distasteful fact is that we are not recognized in the world as a coal producing country even with our excess abundance.

We will not play ignorant of the news about issuance of certificate of power generation to 126 power firm by Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission but we will suggest that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development being harness with the power generation ministry so as to liaise coal with hydro and thermal power sources. Our country is characterized by constant facilities failure (gas pipeline breaks, transmission breakdown, distribution challenges), electricity supply in Nigeria has remained extremely low or lower when compared with the country’s economic estimated demand and potential energy sources. From our conventional hydro and thermal power sources, Nigeria generates just a few above 3000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, with also different statistics claiming it's more than; but this irrespectively is a lot below what we need to support our economic aspirations and struggles. It is estimated that the country would need at least 30,000MW of stable electricity. Therefore with Nigeria’s electricity challenges, the Federal government can review coal as an alternative energy source which has played a vital role in electricity generation worldwide.

Mr. President, let us take some clues from the South African economy on how power generation from coal plant has been able to help them in various parts where electricity is required. Coal has traditionally dominated the energy supply sector in South Africa, from as early as 1880 when coal from the Vereeniging area was supplied to the Kimberly diamond fields. Presently, about 77% of South Africa’s primary energy needs are provided by coal. The five largest coal mining companies account for around 85% of all production. They are Anglo American Plc, BHP Billiton's Ingwe Collieries, Sasol Mining, Glencore Xstrata, and Exxaro. Open-pit mining account for roughly half of South African coal mining operations, the other half being sub-surface. The Grootegeluk open cast mine on the Waterberg Coalfield in Limpopo is one of the largest in the country and feeds the Matimba Power Station with about 14.6 million tons of coal a year via a conveyor system. Around 35% of liquid fuel used in South Africa is derived from coal mined by Sasol Mining at the Secunda Coal to Liquid Fuel (CTL) plants. If South African can produce 39,020 MW from Coal, and USA generates nearly 40% of its 1, 060, 000MW of electricity from coal, we are more than sure that Nigeria is capable of generating at last 15,000MW of electricity from our coal reserves before the end of year 2018. The big question is how are we going to achieve this? The Solution is to start exploration of Coal in the first quarter of 2016, if it could be incorporated into the 2016 budget.

Also, Steel is an essential material for modern life. The manufacture of steels delivers the goods and services that our societies need; healthcare, telecommunications, improved agricultural practices, better transport networks, clean water and access to reliable and affordable energy. Global steel production is dependent on coal with 70% of the steel produced today uses coal; Metallurgical or coking coal is a vital ingredient in the steel making process. The steel industry directly employs more than two million people worldwide, plus two million contractors and four million people in supporting industries such as construction, transport and energy; the steel industry is a source of employment for more than 50 million people. Surgical and safety equipment and most kitchen utensils are made with steel. Likewise, almost 200 billion cans of food are produced each year. Steel cans ensure that food remains safe and nutritious while saving energy because refrigeration is not needed. 1, 060 Million tonnes of steel was produced worldwide in 2013 in which China was the highest producing economy whilst Nigeria was also missing on the World Steel Association data with our Coal and Iron Ore abundance.

Mr. President, your sympathy alone will not help the common man on the street who needs power to make sure he can run a successful business. Businesses have crumbled most especially small scale as a result of low production which power contributes majorly to. We are tired of oil sharing formula that hardly put food on the table of the masses both employed, underemployed and unemployed. Nigerians voted for hope, for economic freedom and prosperity and we believe and would not stop believing that you can and will deliver according to your promises.

Mr. President, reviving the coal industry alone would create jobs for no fewer than 15,000 Nigerians; ranging from professionals to non-professionals, Mining Engineers to Metallurgy and Material Engineers to Electrical and Electronic Engineers to Mechanical Engineers to Sciences and all courses taught in our university; graduate workers to internship for students; indigenous experts to expatriates; from the mine pit to both power plants and steel production plants; from the processing plant to commercial truck drivers; from local company use to export opportunity and endless source of livelihood to the citizenry. This singular solid mineral can also generate a sharp increase in the Gross Domestic Product if the necessary infrastructures are put in place and the abandoned mines reactivated and modernized. Coal export can yield for this nation a minimum of $1 billion per annum as coal is expected to produce $253 billion in foreign sales for Australia.

Mr. President, we need actions like Franklin Delano Roosevelt who inherited great depression but within 100 days in office, he was able to fix the most urgent part of the economy, most especially economic empowerment of the American people through the engagement of some young and vision driven economist and social planners, a ‘brain trust’ that helped him strategize a workable economic blueprint.

We can do this Mr. President if we can harness our manpower abundance through formation of benchmarks for transformation: good governance and greater political participation, economic equality, job creation and poverty alleviation, and a higher quality of social goods and services, such as access to health and education. Also, inviting industries with track record of competence from South Africa, Australia, China, Canada or Russia. We will also suggest training of Nigerians in any of these countries on how these things are being done and sustained; especially those that are inspired with passion and drive to make a difference and have something to offer our developing Nation not recycling the same set of persons in the system that has not effect any change from time immemorial. This is the aspect where we need serious human development; and our teeming unemployed youth’s engagement is the key to this particular sector development, growth and sustenance.

Thank you while we await your reliable response through consideration of Coal as alternative.

Trees died, and fell in ancient times; and sank below the earth.

Long ages past, wood turned to coal; in seams of six foot girth.

Coal is black, coal is hard; coal is dug up from the ground.

It must be burnt to give us warmth; but first it must be found.

Men toiled long hours below the earth; to find this rich black gold,

Then bring it up into the light; for then it can be sold.

So when you feel the winters freeze; and by your fireside sit.

Think on about those trees, and men; that keeps your fire lit.

Yours’ Respectfully,

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

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