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By NBF News
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THE Ebonyi Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an indigenous company and the Enyim-Agalagu community in Ikwo Local Government Area to exploit the salt, lead and zinc deposits in the area.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the firm, Royal Salt Company Ltd, will carry out the exploitation for five years in the first instance.

Dr. Ifeanyi Ike, the special adviser to the governor on Solid Minerals Development, read out the agreement between the community and the firm, which stated that the firm would pay the community a take-off grant of N1.5 million.

'Royal Salt will also pay the community an annual rent of N6 million for the period, provide a road network, electricity, five boreholes at different locations, scholarships to the people and supply essentials worth N100, 000 to the Ameri Health Centre.

'The firm will also pay the community, youth, women group and immediate land owners annually the sum of N300, 000, N150, 000, N100, 000, N250, 000 respectively as well as float a scholarship fund of N500, 000,' he said.

According to the agreement, the payments will come into force 12 months after the commencement of production.

The company will also provide the sum of N200, 000 for school library and laboratory, employ 50 per cent of the unskilled labour force at the mining site and 20 per cent of unskilled labour force from the community at the processing mill.

'It also agreed to employ 30 per cent of the skilled/semi-skilled labour force from the community at the mining site and 15 per cent at the processing mill,'' according to the document.

'The company shall not disturb any occupier of land within the community in which the mineral deposit is located, and shall take all reasonable steps to prevent damage to residential houses, roads and streams.'

Mr. Tobias Chukwu, the president general, Enyim-Agalagu Development Union, said that the mining would help to develop the community.

'We just want our people to develop, our land developed and our people, especially our children, to acquire education and get civilised. As you can see, this place is the most backward in the world today.

'So we are very happy, because we believe this will bring about the much desired development we had dreamt of,' he said.

Chukwu, however, gave the assurance that youth restiveness would not arise in the area, saying: 'The focus of the youth and the people now is to acquire functional education and fast-track the development of the area.'

Royal Salt had signed similar MoU with the Ameka community in Ezza South Local Government Area and Enyigba town in Abakaliki Local Government Area.