Climate Change; Solid Minerals and Energy Transition in Nigeria
Author: Anthony Adejuwon
Nigeria, with the largest population and the most populous in Africa, is also endowed with petroleum, hydro, solar, and mineral energy resources. It is the biggest oil producer in Africa, and the economy is highly dependent on oil. As nations intensify their efforts to reduce pollution, clean energy technologies become essential to tackle the effects of climate change.
Energy transitions offer opportunities and challenges for companies that produce minerals. However, the supply chains for these materials and technologies must be appropriately managed to achieve sustainable development in the clean energy sector and avoid creating new adverse social and environmental impacts along the supply chain.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE NEED FOR ENERGY TRANSITION
Climate change is one of the most severe issues of our day, and as a global disaster requiring rapid and comprehensive response, it necessitates a multidisciplinary approach. The move to renewable energy sources is a critical component in addressing this dilemma, and the shift from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy sources is crucial to reducing the effects of climate change. To achieve this transition, countries must embrace renewable energy technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle batteries. At the heart of these renewable energy technologies lies the importance of clean energy minerals.
Nigeria is a country experiencing extreme weather conditions, rising temperatures, and erratic rainfall patterns that are disrupting the lives of its citizens. Like other countries, Nigeria must key into the energy transition plan to combat these issues by embracing energy transition and diversifying its energy mix.
Nigeria is blessed with ‘Clean Energy Minerals (CEM)’ yet to be tapped. Minerals such as Graphite, Lithium, and Cobalt are primary resources for manufacturing batteries and panels, which are essential in clean and renewable energy technology. Thus, Clean Energy Minerals (CEM) are crucial to the energy transition plan of nations, as emphasized by the COP26 Energy Transition Council (ETC) to all member states. In 2015, the United Nations called for affordable and clean energy for all as one of its Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 7). The target is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. The shift to a clean energy system is set to drive a massive increase in the requirements for these minerals, meaning that the energy sector is emerging as a significant force in mineral markets. The production and supply of energy materials and other minerals are expected to grow rapidly in the future, as without them, the transition to a low-carbon future would be severely hindered. Nigeria’s potential to become a clean energy mineral hub benefits its economy and contributes to global efforts to combat climate change.
As the world navigates the energy transition and save the planet from the effects of climate change, it is essential for Nigeria to address several critical issues related to clean energy minerals:
Mining Law Review
The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007 is Nigeria’s primary legislative framework governing mining operations. However, the law appears insufficient to address present realities in extracting vital minerals required for sustainable energy. There is a need for a review of the law to favor smart mining, which prioritizes ecosystem safety and imposes severe penalties on miners who fail to adopt climate-friendly techniques.
Sustainable Mining Practices
Responsible and ecologically friendly mining techniques are critical for reducing the ecological imprint of mineral extraction. The Nigerian government must ensure strict environmental regulations and mining operations standards to reduce the impact on ecosystems, water quality, air quality, and land use. This includes conducting comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) before issuing mining permits to assess potential environmental risks.
Land Reclamation and Rehabilitation
Restoration of the mining site is crucial. Miners should be mandated to develop and implement reclamation and rehabilitation plans to restore mined areas and ensure a usable and ecologically stable condition after mining activities cease.
Water, being a vital component of the environment, must be safeguarded from contamination. There is a need to develop policies to avoid water contamination caused by mining activities, such as effective mine wastewater treatment and management. This can be made possible by empowering agencies like the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and mandating the agency to uphold an internal water safety policy for water management in the CEM companies. This will help to promote the responsible use and conservation of water resources in mining operations, especially in water-scarce locations.
To ensure biodiversity conservation in mining of the Clean Energy Minerals (CEM), there is a need to protect critical habitats and sensitive ecosystems within and around the mining area. This may be accomplished by undertaking extensive biodiversity evaluations before and during mining operations to identify and understand local flora and fauna, ecosystems, and potential conservation priorities.
Also, considering a biodiversity offset program where mining companies will invest in the protection or restoration of equivalent or greater biodiversity elsewhere to compensate for any adverse impacts within their mining areas should be an option to protect the biodiversity.
As a type of renewable energy, clean energy technologies are an excellent alternative to reduce emissions and pollution in the wake of the effects of climate change. The energy transition is about shifting to cleaner energy sources and securing a sustainable supply of clean energy minerals needed for this technology. Ensuring that the extraction of this mineral meets environmental, social, and economic standards will guarantee a sustainable and resilient energy future.
Although the energy transition will create opportunities in the mineral energy sector, adequate sensitization and awareness will help put in place mitigating measures to prevent health, social, and environmental problems in those communities with clean energy minerals and enhance sustainable development in the clean energy sector. As the world works towards combating climate change, it is essential to remember that a greener world also requires responsible stewardship of the minerals that power it. Moreover, Nigeria, one of the countries with a large deposit of clean energy minerals required for renewable energy, must proactively contribute its quota to the energy transition plan.