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May 29, 2024

Nasarawa lithium mining is repeating Niger Delta oil exploration havoc — Environmental activists

World Environment Day 2024: MAJI urges FG to embrace open-source tech

By Agbonkhese Oboh

Environmental rights activists have, again, raised the alarm over what they described as the “lithium curse” looming in Nigeria, reminiscent of the “oil curse” that has damaged the Niger Delta region.

They stressed that as lithium is driving the renewable energy vision of the world, the transition might spell doom for communities rich in the mineral.

The rights advocates spoke today, Wednesday, May 29, at a webinar on Just Transition, with the topic, “Voices from Mining Communities”.

They stressed that Just Transition is not the expansion of mining sites in Africa, but ensuring a fair and equitable transition for all stakeholders involved.

The event, which had activists from across Africa in attendance, was organised by Community Development Advocacy Foundation, CODAF; Renevlyn Development Initiative, RDI, and Global Alliance for Incinerators Alternative, GAIA, members in Nigeria.

In Nasarawa

Recall that in October last year, President Bola Tinubu carried out a groundbreaking ceremony to commence the construction of a $250 million lithium factory in Nasarawa State.

However, speaking at today’s discourse, Philip Jakpor, Executive Director of RDI, noted that no community representative is ever invited to any meeting concerning the minerals in their soil.

He said: “The miners and the environment is a crime scene. There are also some unsavory developments in that community – a growing number of kids are recruited to mine and the girls are becoming sex slaves for the miners.

“In every community, and around every community, where lithium is mined in Nigeria, there are Chinese companies and there is insecurity. They deliberately created insecurity in the mining communities, allowing the miners to get away with their environmental and other crimes.

“The requisite monitoring and oversight are largely missing.

“And let’s not forget that lithium is driving the renewable energy vision of the world. A metric ton of lithium in the international market is about $100,000 per metric ton, up from about $30,000 a year ago.”

Conversely, he noted, in the state of California (USA), for every ton of lithium extracted, there is a California Lithium Extraction Tax of between $400 and $800 that goes back to the local community for sustainability and other useful purposes.

Solutions

On his part, Ubrei-Joe Maimoni, member of the Global Advisory Hub, GAIA, and Co-Founder of CODAF. outlined how the situation can be remedied.

He said: “While the demand for minerals is driven by the energy transition in developed countries, many communities in the Global South lack access to clean energy.

“The transition must address this inequity and ensure that the benefits of renewable energy are shared equitably, particularly with those bearing the brunt of mining impacts.”

Indigenous rights and community consent, provision of stringent regulations and accountability, equitable access to clean energy, and robust environmental protections are some of the principles he suggested.

“By prioritizing these principles, the transition to renewable energy can be achieved without replicating the injustices and environmental destruction of the fossil fuel era,” Maimoni added.

GAIA Africa

Speaking on ‘Transition to Renewable Energies (EV, Solar, Wind) Without Digging More Pits,’ Kenza Elazkem, North Africa Outreach Coordinator, GAIA Africa, said that beyond the issues of poor regulations in Africa, critical minerals like lithium are only critical to the Global North.

She said they would rather extract them from the Global South where regulations are weak.

Elazkem revealed that the energy transition model currently being promoted by the Global North will push about three million Electronic Vehicles batteries to Africa by 2050, including batteries that will cause public health hazards.

“So there will be waste colonialism with EV batteries,” she warned.

She revealed also that batteries produced for the Global South are not of the same standards and quality as those of the Global North.

“Because of that, GAIA is promoting campaigns to refuse products designed for waste and reduce the use of critical minerals among others,” Elazkem added.

Other rights activists who spoke were Benin Richard, Executive Director of CODAF; Dr. Leslie Adogame, representative of GAIA members in Nigeria; Farai Maguwu, Executive Director of Centre for Natural Resources Governance, CNRG, Zimbabwe; Tobias Lengs Dapam – Board Member, RDI and anti-mining community campaigner, and Tobias Lengs Dapam, board member, RDI, and anti-mining community campaigner.

Marina Agortimevour, Coordinator, Africa Coal Network, was the facilitator/moderator.

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