Fed Govt plot 50 percent solid minerals contribution to GDP growth
…… establish Nigeria Solid Mineral Corporation
…..says Mines Surveillance Security Task Force is underway to tackle illegal miners.
In a bid to diversify the economy, the federal government has perfected the strategy to ensure that the solid minerals sector contributes over fifty percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
In effect, the Nigeria Solid Mineral Corporation would be established as part of an ongoing effort to achieve the objective.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr Oladele Alake, made this known while briefing reporters in Abuja, the nation’s capital city.
The proposed contribution of the sector to the GDP is against the 4.5 percent contribution when the colonialists held sway in the 60s, 5.6 percent by 1980 and then 2 percent of Nigeria’s GDP last year.
The Minister remarked that the solid minerals sector holds the prospect of becoming the major revenue earner for the country in view of the declining fortunes of the oil sector globally.
The Minister disclosed that he would soon present a proposal to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to grant approval for funds required to generate geo-scientific data on the solid mineral deposits in the country required to attract foreign investors into the country.
He stated that the Ministry is reviewing the draft Nigerian Mining Act in comparison with economies that have recorded significant achievements in Foreign Direct Investment in Mining to introduce international best practises.
He further stated that plans are afoot to establish a task force drawn from security agencies in conjunction with officials of the ministry to tackle the menace of illegal miners in the country.
He noted: “This will include the Mine Police, sourced from the Nigeria Police and specially trained to detect illegal mining and apprehend offenders. The new Mines Surveillance Security Task Force will coordinate the Mines Police and pro-actively address high-risk incidences of breach of Mining Laws.
“The Federal and State governments will also be encouraged to allocate the prosecution of cases against illegal miners to competent courts.”
The Minister also read the riot act to illegal miners by giving them a 30 days ultimatum to join a miners’ co-operative or find another vocation to do.
He assured that on the expiration of the period, the full weight of the law will fall on anyone seen on a mining site without a determinable status.
“This message will be interpreted into Nigerian languages and broadcast on the radio to ensure no one is ignorant of this directive,” he said.
Justifying the establishment of the proposed minerals corporation, he noted: “This is a corporate body that will have subsidiaries doing business in the seven priority areas that require immediate intervention and focus: Gold, Coal, Limestone, Bitumen, Lead, Iron-ore and Baryte. Existing enterprises, such as the National Iron-Ore Company, and ongoing arrangements, such as the Bitumen Concessioning Programme, will be reviewed to fit into this new system.
“The proposed corporation will seek and secure partnership investment agreements with big Multinational companies worldwide to leverage on the attractive investment-friendly regime operating in the country to secure massive Foreign Direct Investment for the mining sector.
” The positioning of the national corporation as a guarantor and protector of the partnership agreements is expected to assure partners of our seriousness and fidelity.
“Similarly, the Solid Minerals Corporation will provide robust support for Nigerian businessmen seeking funding abroad and help to authenticate their investment proposals to speed up the commitment of their partners to invest.
“Domestically, the Solid Minerals Corporation will engage the Nigerian financial system, which has demonstrated palpable reluctance to support mineral prospecting and mining because of the long-term gestation of value generation by developing a Fund to facilitate investments in mining at interest rates that will be mutually agreed.
“The emergence of the Corporation in the business of mining will enable the Ministry to focus more on its core regulatory and promotional mandates of sanitizing the sector and developing ideas, processes, and institutions that facilitate the ease of doing business in the industry.
“Gathering the Big Data
Accordingly, the most urgent, immediate, and critical precondition for the real take-off of the sector is the gathering of precise geological data. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of funds have been expended on gathering data on the occurrence or incidence of minerals across the country.
“This significant exercise has been very positive in uncovering the locations of minerals in each town or local government in the country. The Cadastral agency has elaborate data and a map depicting the areas of mineral deposits.”
Continuing, he stressed: “However, as resourceful as this is, it is grossly insufficient to make investment decisions. An investor is not just interested in the location of a particular mineral. They want to know the quantum in depth and area before deciding on the cost and profitability.
“This lack of precision of our current data has impeded investment. It has turned licensees into star gazing, uncertain, unsure entrepreneurs praying for luck to strike the amount of deposits that can offset their investments instead of confident, assured risk takers sure that the accurate, scientific data at their disposal are reliable enough for their investment projections.
“Without robust, precise, and accurate data internationally authenticated by the geoscience community and transparently published for easy verification and adoption, international investment will be a pipe dream.
“The Ministry of Solid Minerals shall soon propose to the Federal Executive Council a precise investigation of selected deposits of the seven priority minerals—gold, Coal, Limestone, Iron-ore, Bitumen, Baryte, and Lead/Zinc – to scale this hurdle.
“Other minerals will feature in subsequent investigations under the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project, NIMEP.
Promoting International Investment
Such fundamental progress, as outlined above, will provide content for aggressively promoting our mineral deposits for investment. We shall organize country visits and tours, exhibitions, conferences, advertisement campaigns, and presentations to tell significant stakeholders in the global industry that Nigeria is the next profitable destination for investment.”
Lamenting the decay in the solid minerals sector, he said: “How did a country with industrial, energy, metallic, construction, and precious minerals, including gold, manganese, bitumen, lithium, iron ore, lead, zinc, limestone, uranium, columbite, barite, kaolin, gemstones, coal, topaz, copper in massive proportions fail to use these resources to liberate the citizens?
“At the last count, our estimated reserves include Gold (1 million ounces); Limestone (568 metric tonnes), Lead/Zinc, (Baryte (15 million metric tonnes), Bitumen (N1.1 billion barrels), Iron Ore (3 billion Metric Tonnes) and coal (N396 million). How did a sector with over 2 million operators, including over 633 small-scale companies and 251 500 registered miners, struggle to give the economy capital and human development?
“The reasons are no longer invisible. Studies and practical experience in the field have identified several factors, such as inefficient geo-data, weak implementation and enforcement, poor environmental, safety, and health policies, fragility and conflict, unregulated artisanal mining, low technical capacity, lack of access to financing, weak inter-governmental and inter-agency co-ordination and weak federal/state relations over mining land as the severe barriers to the development of the sector.”
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.