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Benue communities decry hazards over unsafe coal mining

Residents of communities in Benue State are faced with acute water shortage, air pollution and other hazards as activities of coal mining firms contaminate water…

Residents of communities in Benue State are faced with acute water shortage, air pollution and other hazards as activities of coal mining firms contaminate water sources and degrade the environment.

The communities spread across four Local Government Areas of Okpokwu, Ohimini, Otukpo and Ado are in deep need of intervention over these ordeals.

A Daily Trust investigation in 2019, had found a similar issue with a coal mining firm at Okobo and Awo community in neigbouring Kogi State, where laboratory analysis of the Okobo stream showed heavy metals and other pollutants that make the water unfit for consumption.

A resident of Effa community in Benue state, Solomon Akpoja, called on the Federal Government to address this.

“We are facing water poisoning and threats to the environment. We can’t drink from the Okollo stream, the Umabe and Okpokwu rivers; we believe the mining firms belong to Dangote and one Owukpa Mining Ltd.”

Justina Onche, a housewife said for the first time in her life, a rural village depends on sachet water.

“We can’t even drink water from the rivers especially, the Umabe again. The other river Ohimini is far, so we now buy sachet water in Akpali village.”

Responding to enquiries, the Mines Environmental Compliance (MEC) department of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) said: “The two companies are Dangote Limited and Owukpa Consolidated Company Ltd and they are both licensed to mine coal in that place. But they have to keep to the Community Development Agreement (CDA); that is what the ministry is out to enforce.”

The Minister of State, Ministry of Mines and Steel, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah, in a further response, said: “When the issue about this community was raised, the ministry sent a team and they have been able to visit there. Dangote is involved and we are looking at the issues on ground and how it can be mitigated. We are on top of the issue and the two companies have to keep to the CDA,” Ogah said.

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