Environmental sustainability is defined as a condition of balance, resilience, and interconnectedness that allows human society to satisfy its needs while neither exceeding the capacity of its supporting ecosystems to continue to regenerate the services necessary to meet those needs nor by our actions diminishing biological diversity. Sustainability has become an issue today because the earth is under threat from unsustainable use of natural resources. For example biodiversity is threatened by extinction of many species in most ecosystems around the world. This unsustainable use of natural resources has resulted in greater need to protect the system from degradation. Exploitation of mineral resources has been an important tool for national development in more than a few developing countries, for example, Nigeria is blessed with abundant mineral resources, which have contributed massively to the national wealth and socio-economic benefits. In 1909, coal was discovered in Enugu Nigeria. The Ogbete drift mine opened six years later. The Ogbete mine’s operations and others in the country were merged into a new corporation in 1950: The Nigerian Coal Corporation. The NCC was tasked with exploiting coal resources, and held a monopoly on coal and coke mining, production, and sales until 1999. Coal mining has a significant impact on people lively hood and the environment, the environmental shock ranges from environmental degradation to destruction of wildlife and their habitat while on the other hand coalmining contribute to national gross domestic product It is estimated that Nigeria is host to about 2.8 billion tonnes of High quality ignite coal, it is a substantial natural resources lying beneath the Nigerian soils But how much of this resource does Nigeria want to Extract? Is there a Golden Rule that says “because you
have it you must Use it”?
There are many repercussions to coal mining and there are hardly discussed in Nigeria the health implications are the most thought of, coal combustion in china accounts for about 150,000 to 300,000 deaths per year also in Europe coal exploration has caused over 28.6 million cases of respiratory complaints most of which result to death. Also Mining incidents occur at coal mines ranging from coal dust explosion, flooding, and collapse of mines to mention but a few. Not to talk about the permanent environmental and health hazards it poses at host communities which includes loss of farmland, pollution of ground surface waters coal Dust inhalation, relocation etc.
Nigeria would chart a more sustainable economic growth path if it observed very carefully what changes are happening in the global coal landscape whether cheap coal is really cheap and whether clean coal is really clean and whether extracting coal really provides a long term answer to Nigeria’s electricity problems. Coal fired power plants are not very efficient. Most of the energy is lost as heat. Our governments have committed themselves to protecting the climate if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees it will be impossible to manage consequences of climate change, to reach the climate target, 88 percent of all known Coal Reserves must remain in the Ground. And that includes Nigeria.
Many surface mines have removed acres of vegetation and altered topographic features, such as hills and valleys, leaving soil exposed for erosion resulting from ecological disturbance to pollution of air, land and water, instability of soil and rock masses, and radiation hazards. On the other hand coal mining has it positive impact on the society which includes creation of employment, provision of basic amenities by the mining industry to the affected community and the increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country through economic activities. Since much of the damages are inevitable and if the minerals must be developed, both the government and the mineral industries must be involved in taking precautionary and remedial measures that can minimize the ill-effects of mineral exploration.
More than 10 percent of global electricity is produced by renewable energies and the trend is on the rise and china is a major player in the renewable energy sector though it burns more coal globally but has been able to boost its electricity from renewable in the last five years. In stark content with global developments the Nigerian Government has announced in 2014that 30% of the country’s electricity will come from coal meanwhile renewable energy in Nigeria account for less than 1% of the country’s energy mix despite the huge enormous resource potential Nigeria has in solar, wind and non-fossil biomass. The prevalent perception about renewable energy in Nigeria is that renewable energy systems and technology in Nigeria do not work. The loss of confidence in renewable energy as viable alternatives for electricity generation stems from bad experience with imported sub-standard products and poorly executed.
Recommendations and conclusion
Whatever feeds the Grid either renewable or fossil fuels the question still remains whether the existing Grid infrastructure is robust enough to accommodate substantial power generation beyond its current transmission wheeling capacity of 5000MW? And how long will it take to expand the grid? The quick win for Nigeria lies solely on Decentralized renewable power such as Pay-As-You-Go solar. These individual solutions can bring electricity to millions of households, small and medium sized enterprises within months rather than years. This option needs the least investment and regulatory framework it’s a ready to roll project. And for once this power would be power in the hands of the people who have been waiting so long.
Written by Jonathan Emmanuel.