The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development recently played host to a delegation from two banks and another from a Moroccan mining company to discuss areas of collaboration towards producing iron ore and phosphate respectively from their abundance in the country. ABAH ADAH reports
Iron ores are minerals found usually in sedimentary rocks from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The ores are usually rich in iron oxides and vary in colour from dark grey, bright yellow, or deep purple to rusty red. These iron oxides are found in various forms whose differences are marked by the volume of iron (Fe) they contain. They include: magnetite (Fe
4, 72.4% Fe), hematiti (Fe
3, 69.9% Fe), geothite (FeO(OH), 62.9% Fe), limonite (FeO(OH)·n(H2O), 55% Fe) or siderite (FeCO3, 48.2% Fe), of which the two most important are magnetite and hematite.
Iron ore is the raw material used to make pig iron, which is one of the main raw materials used to make steel. In fact, it is on record that about 98% of the mined iron ore is used to make steel. They have been mined to produce almost every iron and steel object that we use today – from paper clips to automobiles to the steel beams in skyscrapers.Thus, it has been argued that iron ore is “more integral to the global economy than any other commodity, except perhaps oil”. This means for any nation to industrialise, it must be self-sufficient in iron ore production to be able to produce the iron and steel required for industrial development.
On the other hand, phosphate is another important mineral of great interest, especially in the agricultural sector as it constitutes the major material for fertilizer production. Being insoluble and hard for plants uptake in the phosphate form, rock phosphate mineral is usually converted into phosphoric acid which can be reacted with amonia to make Monoammonium Phosphate (MAP) or Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertilizers.
Phosphorus which can be extracted from phosphate rocks is a vital component to the health of plants, assisting in many biological processes that help to create strong stems and roots, aid in resistance to disease, and create a more productive plant overall.
Apart from its agricultural benefits, phosphate also has its uses in the iron and steel and other sectors. It helps make steel harder and water softer. It plays a part in dyeing cloth and in washing clothes. Phosphate is the cement a dentist apply on teeth and in the fluids used to drill for oil and gas.
Hence, the need for local production of these two minerals, which abound in the country. This is even more important at a time like this when government is making effort to diversify the economy from oil into agriculture and solid minerals and eventually industrialise it.
That, most probably, is why the Hon. Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari did not mince words when, on separate courtesy visits to his Abuja office recently by a team of the financiers of the African Natural Resources and Mines Ltd, Standard Bank and Stanbic IBTC, and a delegation from a Moroccan mining company. The minister expressly expressed government’s readiness to deepen its existing collaboration with the African Industry and Morocco in the quest to develop iron ore and phosphate respectively in the country.
While welcoming his first guests, the bank delegation led by the Global Sector Head: Mining and Metals Client Coverage, Mark Buncombe, the minister said their coming was highly welcome and apt because they were about to set a pace by funding the processing of iron ore and thus advancing steel production in the country.
The minister who noted that before now investors like the African Industries were only using scraps for production of steel said, “Today we have the African Natural Resources and minerals-your client who discovered iron ore in Kagarko, Kaduna State and they want to develop it to feed the 7 steel plants they have in Nigeria.
“They also want to build a coal plant.
“It is a company we are so proud of and will work even more closely with it with all the needed support following this your visit.”
He informed the team that Nigeria has about 44 minerals that have been identified such as gold, barite, limestone, tin, lithium, pantalite, manganese etc.
“This is the kind of opportunity we have been looking forward to in order to fund the industry in Nigeria. Today, we are trying to find out how many of them we have in commercial quantity. Thus we presently have the integrated exploration project in which we prioritise some minerals like gold, tin etc to ascertain their commercial value so that we can have bankable data that can attract investors.
He urged the banks to work closely with the Solid Minerals Development Fund to see to how best they can assist the sector and to extend the funding support to other willing investors.
“We have discovered that no country can develop without steel, and for long we have been trying to develop our steel sector, but there were challenges of which we are trying to address,” he said.
The banks team were there on behalf of their beneficiary- African Natural Resources and Minerals Industry to ascertain the areas of collaboration and to canvass the ministry’s support for their client, according to the team leader, Buncombe.
Recall that in a recent LEADERSHIP report, Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed had said that the planned investment of $600 million (N183 billion) in an integrated iron ore mining processing and steel production plant in Kaduna state will create 3,500 direct jobs.
The Finance Minister also went further to say that the steel plant will generate 36 megawatts of electricity to the national grid that would boost the already generated megawatts of power for other economic activities.
Also, while welcoming the Moroccan Mining Company delegation led by the Managing Director, OCP Africa, Mohammed Hettiti, who came to seek collaboration in the area of phosphate development locally, Bwari appreciated the long outstanding relationship between Morocco and Nigeria.
He noted that Morocco has been a good partner of Nigeria agriculturally through supply of phosphate, a major raw material for fertiliser production.
“We know that your country is one of the most endowed with phosphate, so we want to leverage on our relationship to collaborate with you in developing our own phosphate and because we have it.
“As of today, Nigeria is self-sufficient in cement production because we have these deposits in large quantities and now we are exporting cement because we have the raw materials required for its production such as limestone in commercial quantities which are being explored and exploited; so we want to do the same thing in phosphate for agriculture, carbonate minerals so that we can address the issue of the pharmaceuticals, water treatment and the rest,” he said.
The two courtesy visit events had, apart from members of the visiting teams, all major stakeholders in attendance including the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel, Abdulkadir Muazu, the Director-General of the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), Abdulrazaq Garba, the Executive Secretary, Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF), Hajiya Lamis Salau as well as directors and heads of concerned departments and agencies under the ministry.
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