ITAKPE-The Federal Government yesterday, assured that National Iron Mining Company, NIOMCO, will receive simultaneous technical audit and funding as Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, ASCL, soon. The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite, gave the assurance while on tour with Senate Leader, Sen Abdullahi Yahaya and his delegation at NIOMCO, Itakpe, Kogi State to assess the current situation of the company. Adegbite said the two companies are like ‘Siamese Twin’ that cannot be separated following the strong connection both have in producing steel to meet local content and for export. It was discovered that 200 million tonnes of iron ore deposit here. The job was done by the then NSDA and the TPE between 1975 and 1978. In 1980 development work started. It has 14 iron ore layers in Itakpe now and the method of mining is open-pit. With 200 million tonnes Ajaokuta can be served for the next 20 years. What NIOMCO currently produces in the plant is 30 percent and it is not enough. He said: “We are praying that we achieve it and bring it to fruition in a short time. We have tied Ajaokuta and NIOMCO together. Like I said they are like ‘SiameseTwins’, they cannot be separated, and the technical audit we are doing for Ajaokuta will also be done for this, and it is all within the purview of the funds that are already pledged “In the production of steel iron ore forms about 90- 95 percent of the requirement, and at the time Ajaokuta Steel plant was being sited this was being considered because they have iron ore deposit herein its purity. The deposit here was found most suitable for Ajaokuta. “What the country does essentially is that when you mine the iron ore from the field you bring it in for beneficiation. I think the iron ore found here is about 33 percent purity but they upgrade it to 65 percent before sending it to Ajaokuta. “So this was the purposeful company built to serve Ajaokuta especially, and of such a rail link was built from here into Ajaokuta to serve because iron is a very heavy commodity and it forms the primary material in the production of steel.” Also speaking was the Senate Leader, Sen Abdulahi Yahaya who pledged National Assembly’s support for the two companies to come on stream soon said NASS is passionate to see that everything is done to make the effort of President Muhammadu Buhari comes to fruition. “I think all is on the amount of commitment and passion that we have for the project. The President of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has already entered into an agreement with Russia to revive Ajaokuta. You cannot start Ajaokuta without NIOMCO. “So the equipment and other things over the years either by pilfering or abandonment need to be rehabilitated for it to start working. The most important thing is how do we do a technical audit on the entire infrastructure? So from the basis of that technical audit, we will know what is wrong and what is required to start the process. In fact, you have to do it before doing the Ajaokuta one. “The two technical audits have to go together so while you are doing the technical audit for this one the Ajaokuta one is going on and you can synchronize the two so by the time you finish the whole technical audit and rehabilitation because it will provide you with the cost profile. The kind of technical equipment and upgrade the plant and make sure it is working successfully and also do the same thing for Ajaokuta because it has been neglected for a long time”, he said. Speaking in the same vein as the Senate Committee Chairman, Mining and Metallurgy, Sen Umar Tanko Al-Makura, said the technical audit remains paramount and cardinal towards the successful take-off of ASCL. “One of the critical purposes the technical audit will serve apart from the cost is the implication of revamping the company. It is also a fact that these things have been moribund for some time. The technical audit will also provide the necessary upgrade because from the time the mine stopped working and now technology has advanced. “So the technical audit will find the way and means to bring the technology here in line with best practices and modern technology. That is the way to get everything back”, Al-Makura added. Meanwhile, the Sole Administrator, NIOMCO, Augustus Nkechika said in a welcome address that, “NIOMCO’S mandate to provide the basic raw material for iron and steel production makes the company strategy to the nation. As evidence of this, NIOMCO is required to supply Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, ASCL, with 2.5 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate with Iron (Fe) content of 63-64% in the latter’s operation during which it is expected to produce 1.3 million tonnes of steel. Consequently, NIOMCO needs to be properly equipped to discharge its mandate effectively.” Nkechika while acknowledging and appreciating commitment from the Minister of Mines and Steel Development and Senate Committee on Mining and Metallurgy said, “I, therefore, affirm on behalf of the management and staff of NIOMCO that we will also do all in our part to complementing your efforts towards bringing NIOMCO back to operation and to inform you of the readiness of our staff to reciprocate your kind gesture by putting in their best at work.” However, the SA pointed out emphatically that, “They need to fully complete the rehabilitation of the plants and also acquire additional mining equipment early cannot be overemphasized.” He further highlighted challenges bedeviling operations of the company which includes inadequate funds, the need to construct a new 45T magazine for the storage of explosives and accessories, inadequate mining equipment, noncompletion of beneficiation and super concentrate/weathered ore treatment plants, the perimeter fence of 74.28km, depletion of human resource, non-commensurate remunerations, and welfare scheme.