However, the commodity was gradually sidelined as the Nation’s attention turned to Oil exploration.
Correspondent Chinelo Ozoalor in this special report examines the need to revive the Coal industry in line with the current economic diversification agenda of the Federal Government.
The Name Enugu state is synonymous with Coal, which is why it is always referred as coal city state.
A look round the area also depicts the relationship as different art works show one history of the people with Coal or another.
Coal is defined by Oxford Advanced Learners dictionary as a hard black mineral that is found below the ground and burnt to produce heat.
It can also be found in other states in the country including Kogi, Delta, Anambra, Benue and Gombe but coal mining in Nigeria started in Enugu state.
History has it that coal was discovered in the state in 1905 at Udi ridge by a British mining Engineer, Albert Kitson during his search for silver.
However actual exploration began fully in 1909 with the first shipment made to Britain.
The development and use of coal grew rapidly and affected in many ways the socio economic life of the people. For example production at the mines in Onyeama, Ogbete, Iva Valley and Okpara rose from twenty five thousand , five hundred and eleven tons to an estimated five hundred and eighty three thousand, four hundred and twenty two tons before the decline which started during the Nigeria Civil war of 1967 to 1970.
At the end of the war most areas of the South East were ravaged and many expatriate miners mostly from Britain and Poland left Nigeria.
The exit of these experts coupled with the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity led to government neglecting the massive infrastructure at the mines, managed by the Nigeria coal corporation in Enugu.
Coal is an importance energy source because of its low cost and abundance, compared to other fuels particularly for electricity generation.
Apart from the discovery of crude oil, it is still not clear and acceptable in many quarters why this important solid mineral was abandoned by successive administrations.
However, a retired general manger of Nigeria coal corporation who served from 1989 to 1999 Mr Nelson Agu is still optimistic that government could still revive the Nigeria coal corporation
A ninety year old farmer Chief Engineer with Nigeria coal corporation Chief Wilberforce Nwenwu also raises the hope that coal is still in abundance.
The former vice president Nigeria coal miner’s union comrade Emmanuel Chime highlighted the potentials of the coal industry.
The legal Adviser to the Nigeria coal corporation Enugu before the civil war and president Enugu state development Association Chief Enechi Onyia San advised governors of the south east to come together and pursue the resuscitation of the corporation.
In a contribution a former Commissioner for Education in the old Anambra state Chief NdukaEya said the moribund nature of Nigeria coal corporation should be a challenge to all South East.
A woman leader and daughter of a former coal corporation staff Mrs Tina Nwanngwu recalled with nostalgia her experience in the days of the coal industry.
Does the Enugu state government have any plans of reviving the coal industry?
Many experts and stakeholders believed that coal is too important to be neglected.
Countries such as South Africa, China, Israel, USA and Germany use coal to generate electricity..
Hence most of the people interviewed said there were so much attachment to the resuscitation of coal in the area, that any government that would facilitate it would be seen as having touched th lives of the people.