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Anxiety Over Search For Gold In Suleja

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ABAH ADAH writes on efforts made in the search for gold and other minerals in Suleja LG of Niger State

Non-availability of organised empirical geoscience information (data) has been identified as one of the greatest challenges that has militated against the development of the Nigerian solid minerals sector in spite of the abounding evidences that the country is sitting on rich deposits of various types of the minerals of high economic values.

The import of this is that the art of research and exploration by which one can be certain of the locations, quantity and quality of the minerals has not been encouraged over the years, a trend witnessed at its worst through the oil boom era to date.

However, the economic policy of the present government seeks to diversify the economy from oil based into agriculture and solid minerals. In the quest to develop the solid minerals sector, efforts are in their top gears to attract investors from within and outside the country, and to succeed is to have readily accessible data which encourage such investors to come in.

It is in the light of this that the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project (NIMEP), which is domiciled in the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), was floated last year under the supervision of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD).

The federal government flagged off the integrated exploration project which is to last through 12 months under the established Natural Resources Fund (NRF) at the cost of N15 billion pursuant to the diversification agenda, in realisation that it is through exploration that enough and bankable geological and geoscience data that can lead to successful exploitation can be arrived at. Several companies were commissioned  to commence exploration and related activities in the country, including AG Vision Ltd.

Some strategic mineral commodities targeted based on their catalysing effect on industries were gold, pegmatite host of minerals (cassiterite, tantalise, niobium, lithium), base metals, barytes iron ore that cut across the different geological terrains including the basement complex schist belt; the central areas cutting across both the basement and sedimentary as well as the Benue trough among others.

The recent official visit of the minister, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, to the AG Vision mining camp at Kuchiko in Suleja, Niger State was to see the progress made at the preliminary stage and it turned out that the search for gold and other minerals there is blazing with hope for the nation.

As at the time of the visit to the Kuchiko camp, pitting (i.e. digging up the subsoil), trenching and coring (i.e. drilling towards the earth core or centre) in search of gold and other possibly co-occurring minerals were ongoing in different locations through manual and mechanical approach.

Commending the progress made, the minister said, “This is the first phase of the exploration work, and based on what we have seen here today, the results are quite encouraging.

“The platinum group that they have seen so far is of higher quality than that of South Africa which is the world’s largest producer of the platinum group, and that goes to show that Nigeria is highly endowed in this mineral, but what we are looking at is commercial quantity and value.

“I think by this exploration we are building a stronger foundation for the Nigerian mining industry and creating investors’ confidence whereby they would want to invest, having known what is on ground.”

Earlier in his address, the minister who explained that the project was aimed at creating readily accessible geoscience data bank and attracting investors, said it was part of NIMEP, making it the biggest exploration activity of its kind ever embarked upon by the ministry.”

The minister who implored  the contractor to ensure that, in carrying out their assignment, the host communities were carried along, lamented that over the years, lack of adequate geoscience data has alienated potential investors, leaving the country’s economy to bear the brunt of it’s multiplier effect, adding that it was in view of that, and to stop the ugly trend that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari decided on floating the project.

In his welcome address, the director-general, NGSA, Engr Abdulrazak Garba, said the project, in line with the objectives of the World Bank-a development partner, was aimed at rapidly generating integrated geoscience information in both green field and brown field settings through evaluation, using cutting-edge exploration technology.

“It’s designed to be executed in basically 5 phases, beginning from desktop studies to geological mapping, sampling and analysis, collection and empirical interpretation of data, reports of which are to be compiled and presented as the contractor progresses with the stages,” he noted.

According to him, the objective of the exploration projects initiated by government was not only targeted at providing the bankable geoscience data, it was also conceived with a remote intent of creating jobs for the unemployed youths, especially the locals through the projects.

Speaking, the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals, Hon. Aminu Hashiru Mani, who was also present on the occasion commended the purposeful effort of the federal government so far in revamping the sector and congratulated the Kuchiko community and its environs on the opportunities provided them courtesy of the project.

While speaking to newsmen earlier, the managing director of A. G. Vision, Fadi Abou Ghazale, who expressed gratitude to the Nigerian government for the opportunity given them said they had run more than 3, 000 samples that had been sent to internationally recognised labs, “and all the results showed that there are high anomalous zones of gold, lead and zinc, nickel, chromium, Bromite, and cobalt so we have no reason to believe that Nigeria will not be one of the prime destinations of mining in the world.”

Making a graphic presentation earlier, the site engineer, Dr Warwick Crowe, said they have identified seven project areas around the country, most of which have the prospect for gold, while other solid minerals such as the platinum group are targeted at the other sites. According to him, the sites which he named as Sado, Kumbo, North Wuya, Bin Yauri, Tsauni (the Suleja location being inspected), and Illesha were at various levels of progress.

The Emir of Suleja, HRH Mallam Mohammed Awwal Ibrahim, who was represented, and the district heads of the area who were in attendance also expressed gratitude to the federal government for the gesture.

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