The Minster of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, recently met with investors in Australia and hopes that Nigeria may be on the path to becoming a global force in mining. ABAH ADAH writes.
One major pillars of the Nigerian economy alongside agriculture through the 1950s and the1960s, even up to the early 1970s was mining. However, following that era, the fortunes of the industry has continued to plummet as the so-called oil boom era turned the eyes of both the leaders and the led far away from this all important sector, to the extent that its contribution to GDP witnessed an all time low at 0.3 per cent in recent times. For years Nigeria has been a petroleum driven economy to the regrettable neglect of all other sectors, including those that made the glorious ante-oil days of Nigeria.
As part of its diversification agenda, the present government has made the mining and agriculture sectors the focal point for developing the economy in addition to the contributions of oil, though analysts have expressed fear over the sincerity of commitment. If not, many believe that for the Nigerian economy to be on its feet again, the real sector must be seen to be working.
Going down memory lane, the mining industry is one of the oldest industries in the world, and its importance to human development becomes evident when one considers the naming of the prehistoric age after mined products –”Stone” age, “Bronze” age and “Iron” age. Mining on the whole is the extraction of valuable mineral resources or other geologic materials from the earth, usually from an ore body, vein or seam It can also be said to be an act or process of extracting minerals of economic importance from their natural environment and transporting them to points of processing and use. Over the years, mining evolved all over the world to include various minerals such as the mining of Malachite at Maadi by ancient Egyptians, Gold and Iron at Wales by the Romans and Turquoise in pre-Columbian America Mining in Nigeria started as far back as the eighteenth century. Over 500 occurrences and deposits of a variety of minerals are known so far to exist within the country with the exploration of some of them being on a small scale. In fact, while delivering his speech at a mining related function recently in Abuja, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, made bold to say that going by recent discoveries, every local government in the country may be sitting on at least one solid mineral or the other.
In a statement recently released on the outcome of his recent trip to Australia to attend the Africa Down Under 2018 Conference on a topic titled: ‘A New Dawn ln Nigerian Mining Sector’ the minister gave the indication that the efforts of the current administration in reviving the mining sector had begun to yield the desired fruit as international investors were beginning to show unprecedented zeal towards investing in the Nigerian mining sector.
The minister disclosed that the present government’s commitment to growing the solid minerals and mining sector, has led to the leverage of about $3.32billion private investments into mining projects as provided in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) focused lab, and Nigeria is today ranked among the most conducive environments to do mining business.
While speaking on the topic in Australia, the minister said already given this new trend, private investments into mining projects covering gold mining and refining, foundry works, lead/zinc exploration and production, tin and columbite mining and processing among others had experienced unprecedented leap in production.
The minister’s summation is coming as a recent revelation by the Chairman of Symbol Mining, Australia, Andrew Simpson, an investor in lead/zinc mining in Bauchi State stated that Nigeria’s Lead/Zinc ore contains 22 per cent zinc compared to world’s average of 6 per cent. He then urged the Nigerian banking industry to support and encourage mining businesses noting that one of the disappointments faced by mining companies in Nigeria has to do with poor investments because of lack of good mining history.
For Bwari, this significant leap is borne out of the present government’s resolve to hinge on the experience gained at the ERGP Focus Lab where the ministry focused on removing challenges hindering formal exploitation of gold, tin and lead-zinc mineral endowment following reports of massive exports of these mineral commodities to foreign smelters against Nigeria’s low production figures.
“A new export guidelines for the export of mineral commodities have been developed, which seeks to ease challenges surrounding grant of export permits and licensing issues. Formal mining is on the rise in Nigeria and this is evidenced by the number of mineral titles held by investors. Prominent among these projects include Symbol Mining/Goidal Resources that are currently developing an open pit mine for exploiting lead-zinc deposits located in Bauchi and Nasarawa States. First Patriots are already mining and producing 5,000 tonnes per month lead-zinc concentrates; Thor Explorations Limited that are continuing with mine development and exploration works over Segilola Gold Project; two coal mines operated by Eta-zuma Group and Ashaka Cem Plc, and Promethean Resources that engages in the production of tin and columbite concentrates for export.
The Nigerian mining sector is now more than ever an investors’ haven evidenced from the high grade deposits exploited by current operators coupled with the conducive and competitive investment climate comprising100 per cent ownership of mining project as secured by the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, waiver of customs and import duties for plant, machinery and equipment imported for mining operations, tax holidays of three to five years, free transferability of funds, permission to retain and use earned foreign exchange, capital allowances of up to 95 per cent of qualifying capital expenditure and predictability of environmental costs,” he told the gathering.
He said for those having fears about easy transportation of finished products, the government has gone ahead with strategies to solve challenges through the implementation of a National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan, citing the dredging of the River Niger and the almost completed works at Warri Port and the Escravos Channel as part of the effort.
“These works would facilitate export and import of goods. The Central Corridor Railway Line linking Warri Port to Abuja through mineral resources endowed regions of the North Central, home to iron ore, steel plants, coal resource and pegmatite-bearing lithium is under construction.The rail line from Warri Port through Ajaokuta to ltakpe is already completed. All these are aimed towards diversifying the Nigerian economy through solid minerals. Nigeria before now was a mining destination before oil and gas took over. So, the new direction is to generate revenue and jobs through the mining sector,” he concluded.
At the Nigeria Investment Roundtable put together by the ministry, at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Australia, the chief executive officer of Comet Minerals Limited, Stephen Davis, who lauded the efforts of the minister and the current government in the area of mining, admonished investors who may be nursing fears over security in the country to have no fear but play by the rule.
“The Nigerian Mining Act, a good team of experts, advisers and technical personnel, coupled with foreign investors coming to Nigeria to do mining business but worried about security challenges in the northeast, I advise that they play by the internal security arrangements and rules to avoid ugly incidents. There are internal security protocols that companies must follow,” he said. Dr lan Burston, chairman , Kogi Iron, also at the Business Luncheon said hitherto mining was difficult in Nigeria but through the effort of the present government, a conducive and friendly environment for mining businesses to thrive has been created.
“Nigeria is a very serious mining province from what l have experienced lately. The geological experience in Nigeria has been significant and l am very excited. By this month of September we will begin our very first export to China. We are also working on building Nigeria’s best Mining House with the production of at least four products. In ten years we hope to have five operating mining houses in Nigeria,” he noted.
Director AG Vision, Brad George, who has worked with 16 nations in the area of solid minerals exploration and presently operating in the north – east on a 15,000sq km land, the largest in Nigeria, said at the luncheon that he was convinced that Nigeria has a very friendly environment to do mining business.
“l believe gold market has very good prospects as is the case with nickel and Zinc, because Nigeria has a solid and workable mining system,” he said.
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