Renevlyn Development Initiative

Presidency meeting on lithium a repeat of the same mistakes of oil extraction – Groups

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

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

At the meeting President Bola Tinubu hailed 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 tonnes daily in Nasarawa while Canmax Technologies, another Chinese firm responsible for over 30 per cent of global battery material production, announced a new investment of $200 million for another lithium processing plant in the state.

In his remarks, 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.

But in reaction to the engagement, RDI and NEW frowned at 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.

RDI Executive Director, Philip Jakpor said:

“Here we go again. It is worrisome that such 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 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.

NEW Foundation Executive Director, 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, not the master – slave relationship that is already being noticed in the mining fields and host communities”

The two organisations said that the introduction of a condition that mining firms must put in place viable and sustainable remedial measures before their fresh applications for mining are approved is good but 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 like is happening in oil-bearing communities. Obviously the government has not learnt any lessons,” they insisted.

For additional information

Philip Jakpor

Executive Director

Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI)

Kelechi Okezie

Executive Director

Neighborhood Environment Watch (NEW) Foundation

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top