Presidency Meeting On Lithium A Repeat Of Oil Extraction Mistakes, Say RDI, NEW

By Edu Abade

The Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI) and the Neighborhood Environment Watch (NEW) Foundation have expressed concerns over the noticeable absence of community representatives at last Friday’s meeting of the Presidency with companies extracting and processing lithium in Nasarawa State.

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The meeting, which held in Abuja, was attended by Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State and accompanied by Chairman, Avatar New Energy Materials Company Limited, Hi Yongwei, Chairman, Canmax Technologies, Zhenhua Pei and Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Dele Alake.

During the meeting, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu commended the inauguration of Nigeria’s largest lithium processing plant in Lafia, Nasarawa State as a clear indication of the country’s attractiveness for foreign investment.

Avatar, a Chinese firm, built the lithium processing plant which produces about 4,000 metric tons daily in Nasarawa, while Canmax Technologies, another Chinese firm responsible for over 30 percent of global battery materials production, announced a new investment of $200 million for another lithium processing plant in the state.

Speaking, President Tinubu urged the Chinese firms to prioritize environmental protection, community engagement, and corporate social responsibility initiatives as integral parts of their operations and asked them not to leave the community in ruins as they explore high-grade minerals.

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But in reaction to the engagement, RDI and NEW frowned on the absence of representatives of host communities where mining is happening in the meeting, cautioning that the same approach heralded the resource control crisis in the Niger Delta where oil-bearing communities were never part of the decision making processes on the exploration and extraction of their oil and gas resources.

 Executive Director of RDI, Philip Jakpor, said: “Here we go again. It is worrisome that such a high level meeting with the Chinese miners did not have a single representative from the communities where lithium is now being mined.

While we welcome the charge that the president gave to the miners to safeguard the environment, there is nothing to show that the companies involved are even engaging the host communities in any of such discussions.”

Jakpor pointed out that locals in Uke District, one of the sites approved for lithium mining in Nasarawa State are already complaining that miners have started encroaching on community lands and polluting ground water.

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Also, Executive Director of NEW Foundation, Kelechi Okezie, said: “We are very skeptical about the benefits that lithium will bring to the host communities.

From Ebonyi to Enugu and other parts of the country where different solid minerals are mined we see a pattern of non-engagement and ruination of the local environment while the miners rake in profits that our government cannot even account for.”

Okezie pointed out that Chinese firms in the extractives sector are not known to be accountable to host communities even as he stressed that, “We expect to see communities that are better than the miners met it, and not the master-slave relationship that is already being noticed in the mining fields and host communities.”

The groups maintained that besides the introduction of conditions that mining firms must put in place viable and sustainable remedial measures before their fresh applications for mining are approved, clear engagement policies with communities must also be in place.

“A situation where the discussions are top level and only between the government and the mining firms is unacceptable and will create the same crisis as is happening in oil-bearing communities. Obviously the government has not learnt any lessons,” they insisted.

Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600,

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