The need for reliable geophysical data cannot be overemphasized in any economy, especially in economies blessed with natural resources as Nigeria. Ruth Tene looks at the available bankable data and the potentials for the mining sector.
For many years the absence of reliable geophysical data has been seen as one of the many challenges hindering the development of the Mining sector in Nigeria.
These challenges have stood as bottlenecks against the development of the sector and have also been one of the put-offs towards getting foreign investors to come in, as many have argued that investing in economies without reliable bankable data is a risk no investor is willing to take.
The Project Coordinator, Sustainable Management Minerals Resources Project (SMMRP) Linus Adie asserted that “that is now a thing of the past as the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA ) in collaboration with the SMMRP has generated bankable geophysical data which is already yielding amazing results”.
He said one of the programmes of the SMMRP was to develop geosciences information for the mining public and government, of which SMMRP/NGSA did Geophysics of 56 per cent of the country including the Niger Delta.
Adie said the first aspect of developing the information was to fly and collect data while the second aspect was to do the interpretation “sometimes ago, we did the public presentation of the flying data and now we are presenting the interpretation of results.”
The implication of the current geodata is that it will ascertain the type, quantity and value of mineral deposits (including oil) which the Nigerian economy has.
Adie said, “One of the best tools in minerals exploration is geophysics, because it determines the structures which in most cases are host to minerals.
He maintained that “the interpretation results as presented by the NGSA were extremely exciting. What amazes me, even though I am at the head of the mining reforms in Nigeria, is to sit down and look at the tremendous information and progress we have made in mining within this short period, because the mining gestation period is about eight years, but within five years which we commenced the reform process, there are many exploration companies now operating in Nigeria and many with exciting finds as a result of findings by the NGSA”.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mohammed Musa Sada reiterated that “it was gratifying to note that the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency had reasonable information on Nigerian Minerals to give confidence to investors”
With the new geodata , investors can access information and data on mineral availability directly from the geological survey that have the capacity and the empowerment to make available the data.
Sada maintained that through the World Bank, the SMMRP and the ministry had undertaken financing of certain critical geosciences data generation projects in the country and added that the flagship of the projects included the airborne geophysical survey of Nigeria, Phase 1 and 2, will cover 100 per cent of the country's land mass, which would enable Nigeria detect its major resources.
The minister maintained that all the states of the country have at least one natural resource, and that government was making sure that it utilised the opportunity as the country could now boast of over 3600 airborne geophysical maps of different scales and products aimed at mineralized targets across the country.
He however expressed regret that Nigeria, which was once the world's largest exporter of Columbite and the sixth largest producer of Cassirite (Tin), had now become a net importer of solid mineral raw materials for the country's industries.
He averred that the neglect of the sector had increased loss of revenues to government, illegal mining and loss of local and international expertise.
He opined that the presentation of the data was of great importance as Nigeria for the first time had carried out airborne geophysical survey coverage of the oil rich Niger-Delta region to make assessment of petroleum depositional environment easier to assess".
Sada added that he had confidence that the mining sector would take its rightful place in contributing immensely to the nation's sustainable development as government was building the capacity of the country's local miners which was critical to the pyramid structure of mining development.
National President, Association of Dimension Stone Operators, Kabir Hamayaji Umar, says the lack of geophysical data is the result of governments’ failure to invest in the sector, which has hindered the development of the mining sector, compelling investors and stakeholders to work with unreliable, and in some cases no data at all.
He said if more attention was given by government in promoting an enabling environment in mining, the future will be brilliant despite all the odds, including a breakdown of peace and other difficulties we may have.