Group Tasks Gov’t On Exploiting Complexities Of Lithium Mining, Prioritising Environmental Sustainability

Group Tasks Gov’t On Exploiting Complexities Of Lithium Mining, Prioritising Environmental Sustainability

The Executive Director, Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI), Phillip Jakpor, has urged the federal government to re-emphasise community engagement while exploiting the complexities existing in lithium mining across the nation with regulations to safeguard environmental sustainability.

He made remark at a virtual discourse on the complexities of lithium mining by the advocacy group, Renevlyn Development Inititiative, in conjunction with Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF), and GAIA.

Recall the President Bola Tinubu had recently met with two Chinese companies – Avatar New Energy Materials Company Limited which processes 4,000 tons of lithium per day in Nasarawa State, and Canmax Technologies, the Chinese company responsible for over 30 per cent of global battery material production.

Jakpor recalled that two weeks earlier, four Chinese nationals were arrested in Nasarawa State for illegal mining of lithium.

He said, “The arrested suspects held no certificate or license to deal in the solid minerals but were running a business venture identified as Hosan Agro-Allied Company Ltd which was registered to deal in agricultural-related activities.”

According to him, “We were not told how long they had been dealing in lithium mining or how much they had extracted or who their partners were. If we probe deeper we would also ask who their accomplices are”

To this end, the depictions above represent the true picture of what lithium mining in Nigeria looks like.

He noted that in the community where lithium is mined in the state, the local communities are excluded from the engagements between the government and the miners and the environment is a crime scene.

He alluded that there are cases of 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. Hence, requisite monitoring and oversight are largely missing with lithium driving the renewable energy vision of the world” he said.

Findings revealed a metric ton of lithium in the international market is about $100,000 per metric ton, up from about $30,000 a year ago.

While noting that the largest lithium importers are China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

The Chinese are ahead in the race to grab every lithium mining community in Africa and they respect neither human rights nor environmental sustainability. Rocks are blasted indiscriminately, wastes are discarded indiscriminately, and child labor issues are being documented in their mining sites.

He buttressed that these incidents in lithium mining communities are reminiscent of oil extraction in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta as a clear example of the oil curse, where issues of environmental sustainability are rife and the locals are left out of the governance of what ideally are resources from their environment and should benefit them.

Jakpor said, “These incidents are in contrast with what obtains in the Global North. In the state of California today, 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. This tax was introduced in 2023”

He added, “ Is lithium mining in Nigeria following the just path? Obviously, the answer is no.

“And just like in Zimbabwe and elsewhere on the continent, if African governments fail to ensure that communities where lithium is mined benefit from lithium extraction and are part of the governance structure, just like the oil curse, we will also start experiencing the lithium curse”

RDI Board member, Tobias Leng Dapam gave a grim account of his visit to mining sites in Nassarawa State.

He alluded that the mines are thriving with a growing number of underage workers and sexual abuse in the local communities with no existence of human rights and environmental sustainability.

He said, There is a deliberately created insecurity in the mining communities allowing the miners to get away with their environmental and other crimes”

Speaking Ubrei Joe remarked that the Indigenous Rights and Community Consent that ensures mining on Indigenous lands for minerals like lithium, cobalt, and copper respects Indigenous rights and gains full community consent per the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He, however, proffers circular economy solutions, stringent regulations, and accountability, equitable access to clean energy with a robust environmental protection law established and enacted.

Similarly, counseling that a holistic approach is necessary to avoid the exploitative practices of the fossil fuel industry while advancing renewable energy.

In her remark, GAIA Africa, North Africa Outreach Coordinator, Kenza Elazkem, stated, “Beyond the issues of poor regulations in Africa, critical minerals like lithium are only critical to the Global North which will rather extract them from the Global South where regulations are weak.”

She revealed that the energy transition model currently being promoted by the Global North will push about three million electronic vehicle batteries to Africa by 2050, including batteries that will cause public health hazards in Africa. So, there will be waste colonialism with EV batteries.

However, she asserted that batteries produced for the Global South are not of the same standards and quality as those of the Global North.

Meanwhile, GAIA is promoting campaigns to refuse products designed for waste and reduce the use of critical minerals, among others.

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