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Moving Nigeria’s mining sector to maturation beyond hydrocarbons

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Illegal mining site in Nigeria Source: File Photo

Nigerian mining offers considerable potential gains as it is regarded as home to abundant, untapped reserves. While its tin, columbite and coal export industries, were central to the economy many years ago, the discovery of hydrocarbons and the migration of capital away from solid mineral extraction and agriculture, caused both sectors’ activities to fall sharply in the late 1970s. With weak prices characterising the global oil market, the Federal Government is exploring measures that can catalyse the mining sector’s maturation. FEMI ADEKOYA writes.

In August 2016 the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development published its Roadmap for the Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Industry, which proposes short, mid and long-term goals, as well as discrete strategies for achieving them.

These goals included developing industrial minerals, energy minerals and steel; encouraging cooperation between federal agencies, state governments and the private sector; building a skilled workforce; broadening credit access; improving the business climate; and increasing the availability of geological information systems (GIS) data.

The success of the roadmap was designed to hinge especially on its success in filling the long-standing gap in that informational base, which has challenged recent investment efforts.

The federal government has focused on improving the collection and dissemination of such data via, among other methods, the launch of an interactive GIS web portal, updates to the website and laboratories of the NGSA, and the acquisition of multi-tech core drilling rigs that will accelerate data collection. Moreover, under its ambitious Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-20, the government intends to complete its countrywide geological survey before 2020.

More broadly, the ERGP identifies solid minerals as a key sector for development and targets 8.5% annual growth in its contribution to GDP over the course of the plan’s duration, in part by facilitating coal production to fuel power plants, formalising informal operations and promoting processing and value-addition industries to strengthen backward and forward linkages.

However, from start to finish, production is largely artisan. According to a report published by KPMG, the lion’s share of the exploration and mining is claimed by small mining firms and local, integrated manufacturing companies working in cement production and limestone processing.

Most marketing and transportation activities are undertaken by individuals and indigenous firms, while midstream processing and beneficiation are almost absent from the sector.

Latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that the Mining & Quarrying sector contributed 9.87% to overall GDP in the third quarter of 2019, lower than the contributions recorded in Q3 2018 of 10.55% but higher than the previous quarter’s 8.99%.

In real terms, the Mining and Quarrying sector grew by 6.19% (year-on-year) in the third quarter of 2019. Compared to the same quarter of 2018, it was higher by 9.00% points and lower by –0.82% points relative to second quarter 2019. Quarter on quarter, growth rate recorded was 18.50%.

The contribution of Mining and Quarrying to Real GDP in the quarter under review stood at 9.90%, higher than the rate of 9.53% recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2018 and the 9.12% recorded in the second quarter of 2019.

To reverse concentration in crude petroleum and natural gas exploration, stakeholders believe that if the mining sector is supported by a host of incentives, an increase in investment from large multinationals should help the government meet its mid-term growth targets, while rising mining royalties offer an important source of revenues as the country seeks additional revenue from other sectors.

Although sector development remains nascent and is dominated by small-scale operations, the increased availability of geological data should support new investment and activity, significantly boosting its contribution to the broader economy in the coming years, even as it offers knock-on benefits like job creation and export diversification.

To the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, exploring opportunities in the field of geoscience is key, as well as information sharing among stakeholders.

To meet the Ministry’s ambition of improved GDP contribution, Adegbite identified six initiatives to be implemented across short, medium, and long-term timelines. They include development of priority minerals, strengthening institutions and governance, addressing challenges faced by stakeholders and operators, building a strong geosciences base and a business-friendly enabling environment.

“Although we are focused on strengthening mineral resource discovery and extraction, we equally recognize that the real economic transformation from mining goes beyond increased revenue generation and GDP growth.

“We must also leverage the mining sector to bring about broad-based development and economic diversification into more sustainable sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing, high technology etc. This will be through resource-based industrialization as well as mines-infrastructure, technological, and industry capacity upgrade.

“We are building a strong geosciences base to enhance our ability to further Nigeria’s competitiveness as a world class mineral exploration destination that would be attractive to serious private sector investments. Nigeria has only been able to attract 0.12 percent out of the 5 percent share of exploration investments flowing into the West African region. Yet, exploration is critical for discovering and creating a pipeline of new mineral deposits that could lead to future mines.

“Equally, we have engaged the British Geological Survey (BGS) to build a national electronic geo-data archiving management system (Nigerian Geo-data Center) at the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA). BGS will also integrate historical geo-data of Nigeria in the UK, NGSA and the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency (NSRMEA) into the system. The objective is to provide easy access for prospective investors to geoscience data on potential areas to target for exploration and mining within and outside Nigeria”, he added.

While commissioning the Geological Mineral Museum, the minister explained that the museum will serve as a contact between the investing public and the diverse mineral types the country has, adding that through the edifice, previous Geological and temporal geoscientific information can be accessed, analysed and correlated with present findings to further understand existing geological models typical to a target area of interest.

On his part, the Director-General, Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), Dr Abdulrazaq Garba added that by using historical data and current geological data to develop mineralization models of the geologically diversified terrains in the country and show casing the various rocks and mineral types in the country, the museum will help investors to make informed decisions.

Partner, Advisory and mining leader, PWC, Cyril Azobu, noted that mining is key to the development of other sector, adding that several projects are emerging as a result of investments in the sector.

He stressed the need for stakeholder collaboration as driven by the Minister to ensure that the objectives of the sector are realised.

President, Miners Association of Nigeria, Kabir Mohammed Kankara commended the Minister for showing willingness to work with other stakeholders in improving the mining sector.

According to him, the essence of diversification agenda is to maximise revenue generation for the country and the only way stakeholders can do that is to make sure that anything that will bring in more revenue for the country is done.

With a recent Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development with the Ministry of Trade and Investment of the Russian Federation, in Sochi Russia, Adegbite noted that the partnership spells out the forms of cooperation expected which include exchanges of scientific and technical information; exchange of study visits and scientists; collaboration on research activities; joint organization of symposia, conferences workshops and training programs; and other forms of cooperation as may be mutually agreed between the parties.

“The MOU also spells out areas of cooperation expected which include, Research and development on basic geology; Geological maps compilation and regional mineralization correlation; methodology and technology on geochemical mapping and remote sensing. Other areas of cooperation include Aero-geophysical Survey, Geo-database construction and geo-information sharing, Marine geology, Research and monitoring of Geo-hazards; amongst others.

“Collaboration with Russia in geological maps compilation and regional mineralization correlation will assist the Ministry in exploring for iron and steel raw materials to support the evolving revitalization of the Nigerian steel industry. It will also help to identify mineralization styles and accurately define their geometry which results shall de-risk investment and hasten investment decision”, he added.


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