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Looking at the amount of charcoal consumed in the metropolitan area only and the continuing race toward deforestating the most strategic slopes in Haiti, many experts are gathering the idea of exploiting a largely untapped and alternative fuel resource to charcoal which exists in abundance in the village of Maissade in the center region of Haiti. Lignite, a dark brown fossil coal is found near the surface of Maissade's soil and is estimated at 9 million metric tons. It is composed of 70% of carbon and its sulfur value is however high, according to foreign experts who analyzed it in 1980.
Lignite reserves in a region were deposited by tons and tons of dead and decaying plants in a swampy atmosphere over the years and the organic material formed accumulated layers of sediments called peat or coal. As the chemical changes caused by the increasing overburden continued to drive out moisture and increase the carbon content, lignite was changed successively into subbituminous coal, bituminous coal, and anthracite. The heating content of lignite is approximately 7,000 Btus per pound and its water content is about 35 percent. It is more accessible than other types of coal as the lignite veins are located above the surface, eliminating the need for underground excavation.
Alternative Fuel For Cooking And Electricity
A soil covered with lignite deposits in the center region of Haiti
Charcoal briquettes made from the decomposition and transformation of lignite deposits
About 79 percent of lignite coal is used to generate electricity, 13.5 percent is used to generate synthetic natural gas, and 7.5 percent is used to produce fertilizer products, and a very small percentage is used as home heating fuel in developed countries.
As an alternative fuel to charcoal and the abundant source of lignite deposits unexploited in Maissade, Haitian and foreign contractors are planning to open a factory of brown coal briquettes in Haiti that will indeed contribute to reduce deforesation and poverty. With a brown coal briquette there are four hours of cooking and a cost of 10 to 15 gourdes compared to a charcoal pot which costs 25 gourdes. According to the minister of the environment, these brown coal briquettes offer a good alternative energy to save the country's remaining forest and a chance to reforest most of the denuded lands.
Once this alternative offered, drastic measures can be taken to block the coal trade and punish anybody who will tend to violate the law, warned the minister.
Regarding the stove that should be used for these charcoal briquettes, it will cost about 500 gourdes added the minister of the environment who sees also a means of exploiting the abundant source of clay available in the Plateau Central as it will be the material utilized to produce the stove.
A growing urgency to protect the environment is needed and a good management of our valuable resources such as the lignite of maissade is a convenient step to stop the country's advanced deforestation.
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WITH BARBARA & VALERIO SAINT-LOUIS
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