Illegal Mining: Nigerian Court Slams Restraining Order On Coal-mining Millhouse Energy Over Environmental Degradation

The Enugu State High Court has slammed a restraining order against Milhouse Energy Services and African Pits & Quarries Ltd, owners and operators of a coal mining site at Awhum in the Udi council area of the state.

The presiding judge, Justice A.R Ozoemena, gave the order while hearing an ex parte application brought by the Attorney-General of Enugu State in a suit numbered E/626m/2023.

After hearing the submissions of W. I. Ezenwukwa Esq., C. C. Egungbe Esq. and C. J. Chukwuebuka Esq. for the Applicant, Justice Ozoemena ordered the suspension of further activities, sealing, and closing down of the site.

“An order of interim injunction is made restraining the Respondents by themselves, their agents, servants, privies, workers, successor-in-title or any other person claiming title or interest through them from carrying further on the activities, environmental degradation, damaging and interfering whatsoever manner with the large expanse of land situate at Ibite Awhum, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State.

“An order of interim injunction is made suspending further activities, sealing, and closing down the premises of the Respondents situated at Ibite Awhum, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State,” the court held.
The court thereafter adjourned the case to October 3, 2023.

Meanwhile, this comes as the Enugu State government has vowed to crack down on illegal mining operators in the state.

Governor Peter Mbah’s administration in June banned illegal mining activities in the state and also set up the Enugu State Committee on Review of Mining Activities, on Friday, to check the menace.

The Committee headed by the Commissioner for Environment and Climate Change, Prof Sam Ugwu, earlier on Monday commenced the sealing up of illegal mining sites in the state.

The Committee, which commenced its enforcement exercise at the Awhum coal mining site of Milhouse Energy Services operated by African Pits & Quarries, accused the company of environmental degradation due to blasting without approval and due regulations, non-remittance of staff tax to the state government despite deducting same from the staff as well as non-remittance of pension contributions to the pension scheme despite deducting same from the staff, among others.

Ugwu, who spoke to journalists during the exercise, said the state enforcement of the ban on illegal mining would continue across the state until there was none left, stressing that the government would not fold its hands and watch the environment destroyed and lives engendered.

Although Milhouse Energy Services was reluctant to state the quantity of coal carted away from the site daily. According to some members of the Awhum community, well over 50 truckloads of coal leave the mining site each day.

“We have no room or land or even forest for illegal mining activities or any mining activities that undermine the environment, lives, and economic wellbeing of our people and the state today or in the future.

“Apart from determining the veracity of the licenses, which they claim they have, we also want to find out the mitigating plans they have in place.

“We are very much interested in what happens to these host communities and their environs many years after these miners have closed shop because if you take a look at the Niger Delta, the people are still suffering greatly from environmental degradation caused by oil exploration activities of many decades ago.

“Enugu powered the industries of Europe and beyond at some point through this same coal. Today, our environment is still bearing the scars and brunt of those mining activities. So, we will not fold our hands and watch that happen all over again,” Ugwu stated.