A striking contrast between two landscapes welcomes you to the Maiganga Coal mines, Akko Local Government, Gombe State. To one side is a large open pit mine over a hundred feet below sea level, where manned heavy equipment move about. To the other side lies an undisturbed stretch of land, flourishing with neat tree rows. It is easy to guess that these neat lush trees would soon be mowed down for the treasure that lies beneath them – coal.
Well such a guess would be wrong; the land beneath used to be the coal mine now reclaimed after the mine was decommissioned. The cycle of mining here is not complete until the land from which mining activity has been conducted is restored to its pre-mining state. Coal mine reclamation involves restoring the mining area to the state it once was. Many times, the reclamation process begins way before the first shovel of coal is dug from the ground. Experts in the miners’ team have to study the area’s ecology with a view to returning it to its original state after the mine is finally closed. Mohammed Ismail, the operations manager at the Ashaka plant explains that Ashaka Cement Company (A subsidiary of Lafarge Africa Plc) has taken reclamation to another level by choosing to plant fruit trees ahead of other trees. This is consistent with the 2030 plan of Lafarge Africa Plc, especially the pillar that rests on climate.”
“What is actually going on here is backfilling,” says Ismail, pointing towards the open pit. Once the needed material is exhausted, or it becomes economically unwise to continue extraction, the actual reclamation begins. The miners return soil materials to the open mines, getting it as close to the original contour as possible. Next to backfilling is re-vegetation.
“The concept now is to plant economically useful trees. Trees from which we can get fruits to eat. We have about three orchards ready in place and there we have plated cashew, guava and mango trees. Furthermore, the trees help to mop up the CO2 in the atmosphere substituting it for the ever useful oxygen” says Ismail. .
To handle the underground water which is very critical to the mix, Ashakacem has sedimentation ponds where it pumps all the water it encounters while mining. The water is systematically moved from one pond to another so as to remove its impurities by sedimentation.
Currently, a team of engineers are working to find the most efficient water treatment method to employ to make this large volume of water more useful. “Though the Maiganga mine is miles away from the cement plant itself in Ashaka, it is not even an inch away from the heart of the management,” says Ismail with the proud smile of man truly happy with his work.