Committee chairman highlights that there were various infringements ranging from environmental degradation to blasting without approval.
Enugu State Government on Monday, said it had begun sealing of illegal mining sites and those without environmental impact certifications and mitigation plans in the state.
Prof. Sam Ugwu, the Chairman, Enugu State Committee on Mining Activities, stated this when the committee visited a site, owned by Milhouse Ltd. in Awhum, Udi Local Government Area.
Gov. Peter Mbah had in June, banned illegal mining in the state and also set up the Enugu State Committee on Mining Activities on Sept. 15 to checkmate the menace.
Addressing newsmen after a firsthand inspection of mining activities at the site, Ugwu who is the state Commissioner for Environment and Climate Change, said there were more various infringements ranging from environmental degradation to blasting without approval and due regulations.
According to him, the miners are suspected to be involved in non-remittance of staff tax and pension contributions to the state government in spite of deducting them from the staff. He said that the government would not fold its hands and watch the environment destroyed and lives endangered.
“Our mission is basically to seal, on behalf of the state government, mining activities that do not have any recourse to the state government.
“We are also here to look at what is going on and you have all seen a lot of environmental degradation going on.
“We equally want to see the veracity of the licence, which they claim they have and to find out how they have been remitting their environmental fees to Enugu State Government.
“Importantly, want to find out the mitigating plans they have in place. We are very much interested in what happens to these host communities and their environs many years after these miners have closed shop.
He added that, “If you take a look at the Niger Delta, the people are still suffering greatly from environmental degradation caused by oil exploration activities of many decades ago.
“Enugu powered the industries of Europe and beyond at some point through this same coal. Today, our environment is still bearing the scars and brunt of those mining activities. So, we will not fold our hands and watch that happen all over again.”
He faulted the claim by the operators of the site that they started mining activities in 2022, saying “from all indications, this site has been in operation for more than five years”.
He stressed that the government was very much aware of other mining sites in different parts of the state operating illegally and without licence or running foul of environmental protection laws and regulations, assuring that government would go after them.
The commissioner also served a notice on African Pits and Quarries Ltd to stop operations immediately and report to the Government House on Sept. 21.
“Sequel to the directive of the Governor of Enugu State banning illegal mining activities in the state, you are hereby warned to desist and stop all mining activities in this environment.
“Your failure to comply strictly as directed may lead to your arrest and prosecution in the state Environmental Protection Court,” Ugwu added.
He also ordered them as a matter of urgency, to furnish the office with comprehensive list including approval licence from the Nigeria Mining Cadastral Office and evidence of notification letter to Enugu State Ministry of Environment before commencement of operations, among others.
Meanwhile, the General Manager in charge of Operations at the site, Akintola Oluwafemi, while assuring that the company would comply with government directives, said the firm obtained all necessary licences from the Federal Government. Oluwafemi added that they were mindful of environment in their operations.