By Victoria Onehi
The Minister of Solid Minerals, Mr. Dele Alake, has said that the ministry will add at least 50% to the Nigerian economy, just as he said that the Ministry is poised to attract Foreign Direct Investment to the country.
The minister, who spoke during the unveiling of the ‘Agenda for the Transformation of the Solid Minerals for International Competitiveness and Domestic Prosperity’, in Abuja on Sunday, said that the ministry will focus on a seven-point agenda.
This includes the creation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation, Joint Ventures with Mining Multinationals, Big Data on specific seven priority minerals and their deposits.Also, 30-day grace for illegal miners to join artisanal cooperatives, Mines Surveillance Task Force and Mine Police, Comprehensive review of all mining licenses and the creation of six (6) Mineral Processing Centres to focus on Value-Added products.
“The Ministry has to take the bull by the horns if the country must reap the harvest of the trillion dollars worth of minerals under the ground across the country. To achieve this laudable objective, there has to be a paradigm shift in the strategy by re-positioning the sector in terms of the human and capital factors that can drive its transformation,” the minister said.
On the creation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation, the minister in a statement by Deputy Director of Press, Ministry of Solid Minerals,Alaba Balogun, said “mining is big business. Nigeria must assert its presence in this environment by replicating its strategic positioning in the petroleum sector by setting up a corporate body that plays in this field. Consequently, the Ministry shall work towards the incorporation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation.”
According to the Minister, the corporate body will have subsidiaries doing business in the seven priority areas that require immediate intervention and focus which include: 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 minister said.
The minister said the country will leverage on the abundant precious minerals including gold, manganese, bitumen, lithium, iron ore, lead, zinc, limestone, uranium, columbite, barite, kaolin, gemstones, coal, topaz and copper that are in massive proportions to attract investors into country.
Nigeria has an 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.
The minister also said the ministry is introducing a security tax force and mines police that will help the country combat illegal mining and smuggling.
“For the last time, let me declare that the Ministry is giving such persons 30 days grace to join a miners’ co-operative or find another vocation to do. 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.
“From October, a rejuvenated security regime will become active in the solid minerals sector. 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 proactively 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 said.
Speaking on the focus area the ministry will target towards improving developing the sector, the minister said that the ministry has 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 coordination and weak federal/state relations.