ABUJA – The Federal Government would develop coal fields across the country to facilitate electricity generation and industrialisation, Mr Musa Sada, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, said.
The minister told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday that “everybody, including President Goodluck Jonathan, wants us to start producing power from coal.’’
Sada said the Federal Government had introduced the National Integrated Infrastructure Master plan (NIIM) to develop coal fields as part of designed efforts to generate power and fast-track industrialisation.
According to him, the Federal Government has identified 16 coal blocks across the country, including Enugu, Gombe, Nasarawa, Benue, Delta and Kogi states.
He said the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency and the National Steel Raw Material Exploration Agency (NSRMEA) were still undertaking exploration work on coal deposits in the country.
He added that “currently, NSRMEA is working on the exploration of coal in Obi in Nasarawa State. We have one of the best quality coal there; the agency has conducted a lot of study around there.’’
Sada said there were two mines currently producing coal in the country, adding that one was located in Gombe, while the other was in Okopo in Kogi.
The minister explained that the Gombe and Kogi mines usually supplied coal to cement and steel factories to fire their kiln and produce clinker, instead of using gas or electricity.
He said that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Power, had established an inter-ministerial committee to assess people who could use coal to produce power.
The minister said some coal blocks were currently under the supervision of the Ministry of Power to enable investors to generate coal for power generation.
“Some of the investors have made some recommendations that if the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) can give them the certificate or permit to produce power, the ministry should allocate coal blocks to them.
“There is one Indian company whose permit is currently being processed by NERC and we have already started the process of allocating coal blocks to the company.
“We have also signed out coal block to a Chinese company located in Enugu.
“Currently, they are on site working to establish a coal power plant but they have to establish the quantity of available coal and know the number of years it can last.’’
Sada noted that the programme was a good one, adding that the problem with coal power plant was that it must continue running for a minimum of 15 years without switching it off once it begun operations.
“It is not like gas power plants that can be switched off when gas is not available. For a coal power plant, it must run for a minimum of 15 years without switching off the system because once it is off, you are in trouble.
“The amount of work to restart operations will almost be equal to the work when you are establishing a new plant.
“That is why you must make sure that the amount of available coal will be enough before you start operation; you cannot start and speculate that coal will come.’’
He noted that cement and steel factories often consumed a lot of electricity; hence the need for them to use coal which was cheaper and available.
Sada said that the Dangote Group had gone further to establish a modern coal power plant in Obajana, Kogi, adding that the plant had coal to begin operations.
“The Dangote Group does not have a coal title and some people are sitting on the titles and doing nothing,’’ he said.
He noted that there were some people who were issued with the coal mining titles but did not have the capacity to engage in proper mining.
“When we came into government, we moved for the cancellation of their concession because they are just holding the piece of paper and doing nothing,’’ he said.
He warned that government would soon revoke all inactive coal mining titles because of its policy of “use it or lose it’’ as contained in the Minerals and Mining Act 2007.
He stressed that the revocation of inactive coal titles would change the whole scenario completely.
“We do not want people to start having projects which they cannot execute. So, when you sign a contract with government, you should know that you have an obligation to execute the project.