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Lithium mining: CAPPA caution on environment

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By Usman Oladimeji

Unchecked mining operations negatively affect the environment.

The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), a non-profit organization focused on corporate transparency and Community Engagement in Africa, has called on the Nigerian government to prioritize environmental responsibility and the safeguarding of local economies as it expands its Lithium Mining operations. This warning from CAPPA follows the recent launch of Nigeria’s largest lithium processing facility in Nasarawa State. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu reportedly expressed admiration for the Chinese Investors responsible for constructing the plant during a recent meeting. He encouraged them to capitalize on Nigeria’s abundant market opportunities and cost-effective workforce.

Avatar Energy Materials Company Limited, a Chinese company, built the Nasarawa lithium plant with a daily production capacity of 4,000 metric tonnes. In addition, Canmax Technologies, another Chinese firm, has committed to investing more than $200 million in building a new processing plant in Nasarawa State. CAPPA highlighted the promising economic opportunities that could come from harnessing lithium in Nigeria, emphasizing its role in supporting the country’s advancement in green Technology and cleaner production. However, the organization also raised alarms about the unchecked mining operations in different regions of Nigeria and the negative effects they have on the environment and nearby communities.

These lithium investments will impact communities.

Mining of lithium frequently leads to environmental issues, particularly because mining companies have a history of taking over local water sources for processing and improperly discarding waste in open waters and lands used by nearby residents. The organization alleges that both the federal government and state officials are complicit and neglectful in addressing the widespread, unauthorized mining operations taking place nationwide. CAPPA expressed worries about how these lithium investments will impact communities, especially considering the underlying issues with Nigeria’s mining regulations.

In the past, Nigeria’s mining industry has prioritized the federal government’s agenda at the expense of local communities, resulting in a significant conflict over who truly owns the resources. Despite securing three mining licenses for tin, gold, and lithium extraction, the Nasarawa State government faces challenges due to federal government control over Mineral resources. This centralized authority only intervenes in administering mining leases, leaving vulnerable communities nationwide in difficult situations. The people belonging to these communities are excluded from crucial discussions that impact their cultural heritage, means of survival, and social environment.

There are mounting criticisms of the antiquated mining laws.

Reports of disputes and conflicts over land ownership have already emerged in the region. Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation, has highlighted the concerning situation in Nasarawa State where foreign Chinese corporations are asserting ownership over local lands abundant in Lithium. The timing of the commissioning of the plant in Nigeria coincides with the mounting criticisms of the country’s antiquated mining laws. Critics said these laws lack cooperation between federal and state governments and do not consider the opinions of local communities, leading to a proposed amendment in the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (Amendment) Bill.

Subsequently, it has sparked concern regarding Avatar Energy’s agreement with the government, questioning its effectiveness in benefiting and protecting local communities due to the lack of transparency in the project’s environmental impact assessment. CAPPA has cautioned against giving approval to Chinese and foreign investments without ensuring strong local oversight and accountability to both communities and the environment. Such approval was cautioned against due to the potential to perpetuate damaging ecological practices and strengthen China’s dominance in the African lithium market, all while putting workers at risk in hazardous conditions.

Related Article: Tinubu Launches lithium ore processing plant

To secure the future of mining in Nigeria while protecting both the environment and the well-being of local communities, the government needs to address the current unbalanced governance structure of the sector. This restructuring should involve giving local communities a more prominent role in decision-making processes. Additionally, strict regulations focusing on community Welfare must be enforced. CAPPA notes that it is essential for corporations to be responsible for their actions and for transparency to be both requested and upheld in the way they function. These steps are crucial for Nigeria to avoid repeating a period of eco-oppression endorsed by the government and instead create a mining industry that is just and empowering.


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