By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
ABUJAÂ â€” A Polish developer, Polnord SA, is leading a coalition of various coal and power companies from the European country to invest in Nigeria â€™â€™s moribund coal industry, towards boosting the Federal Governmentâ€™â€™s coal to power project.
The Head of the delegation and representative of Polnord SA, Mr. Slawomir Zakrzewski, who met with the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Thursday in Abuja, expressed the desire of the conglomerate to help the country with its energy challenges.
He said total investments by the coalition into the coal-to-power sector which would amount into millions of dollars, would ensure that Nigeria meets and surpasses its energy needs in a matter of years.
According to him, many developed countries depend on coal for over 50 percent of their energy source.
â€œIn Poland , for instance, coal is used to generate 96% of their power. We came with a proposal of constructing a coal-fired power plant in Nigeria to help ease the power burden of the country,â€ he added.
Zakrzewski noted that access to energy was a driving force for economic and social development, adding that exploration of coal as alternative energy source for the country had been marred by inadequate financial and fiscal incentives in the mining industry.
He said,â€œCoal is a major source of energy. Coal has played this important role for centuries â€“â€“ not only providing electricity, but also as an essential fuel for steel and cement production, and other industrial activities.â€
He said with coal reserves in Nigeria estimated to be in excess of 2.5 billion metric tonnes, there is no reason the country should not be enjoying the benefits of the industry as has been done by most developed countries in the world.
â€œ Nigeria , like many other countries, has the urgent need to use coal for electricity generation. Every effort must be made to commence the active integration of coal into the nationâ€™â€™s electricity generation expansion scheme,â€â€ he noted.
Responding, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, noted that Nigeria needs to diversify its power base through an efficient and productive energy mix, adding that the ministry was intensifying the drive for coal exploration and production activities.
â€œWe are looking at ways of providing adequate incentives to indigenous and foreign entrepreneurs so as to attract investments in coal exploration and production as well as establishing coal-based industries,â€â€ she noted.
According to the minister, the nation achieved peak annual production of about 1 million tonnes was in the late-1950s. Thereafter coal mining operations were disrupted by the civil war, and so far have only seen a downward decline over the years.
She added that a comprehensive, coordinated and cost effective development of the nationâ€™â€™s energy sector require the approval of the recently produced National Energy Masterplan by the government.
He also noted that at current production levels, proven coal reserves are estimated to last 147 years. In contrast, proven oil and gas reserves are equivalent to around 41 and 63 years respectively at current production levels.
â€œThe sub-bituminous coal which is the major type of coal found in Nigeria is one of the most prized globally. It is important as a fuel because it burns slowly and provides a lot of heat,â€â€ she added.
Alison-Madueke observed that the national energy policy which was approved by the government in 2003 had advocated the pursuit of a comprehensive programme of resuscitation of the coal industry.
â€œThe policy indicated that extensive exploration activities to maintain a high level of coal reserves shall be carried out, and private sector as well as indigenous participation in the coal industry shall be actively promoted.
â€œIt further urged the production of coal for export and for effective utilization of coal for complementing the nationâ€™s energy needs and as an industrial feedstock.
She said, however, that the exploitation and utilization of the nationâ€™â€™s coal reserves shall be done in an environmentally acceptable manner.
â€œThere is every need to minimize environmental pollution arising from the utilization of coal.
This would be effective to reduce host community discontent and environmental degradation in the mining area,â€â€ she explained.
Coal deposits are found in the Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Cross-River, Edo, Enugu , Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Ondo and Plateau states.