The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite, on Monday, maintained that the mining sector will galvanize Nigeria’s industrialization.
Adegbite stated this in his keynote address at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group webinar on with the theme, ‘New Normal – Opportunities for the Nigerian Mining Industry’.
According to him, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and crash in global oil prices has thrown up challenges to the nation’s economic, financial, and social wellbeing, as the webinar’s theme serves as a reminder and pointed out that there are opportunities in every challenge nation, sector, community, and individuals face, but they must be found.
The Minister who focused on two cardinal areas including ‘Preparing for the Opportunities Through Mining Sector Reforms; and Integration of States in Nigeria’s Mining Sector Development said, “Today many countries that were behind us have become attractive mining jurisdictions such as Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso. A few others have become highly industrialized nations after they leveraged their mining industries such as Australia, Canada, Finland, and Sweden.
“We need to take advantage of the immense opportunities associated with the mining industry to industrialize our nation. There is no doubt that the mining industry is going to become more important to the future of the world which is moving towards digitization and automation.
“Minerals constitute a large portion of the inputs used in the production of mobile phones, laptops, ICT gadgets, batteries, solar panels. Although Covid-19 has had an impact on the battery and electronics market in the short term, the recovery projections are most likely positive in the medium term. Within Nigeria, our huge infrastructure deficit can be addressed by sourcing and utilizing our domestic raw material inputs from the mining industry.
“Our local industries also need to stop importing many inputs that are readily available from our mining industry. Regardless of the pandemic and looming global and national economic crisis, Nigeria cannot afford to overlook the opportunities in the global and domestic mining industry.
“This is why there is a strong political will by the government to diversify the economy through mining so that Nigeria is adequately prepared to harness the opportunities.
“Ongoing reforms underpinned by the roadmap for the growth and development of the Nigerian mining industry approved in 2017 are geared towards rebuilding the sector and unlocking its full potentials.
“The vision is to build a globally competitive minerals and mining ecosystem and elated processing industries capable of contributing to wealth creation, providing jobs, and advancing social and human security.”
Meanwhile, the Minister acknowledging pressure by States to generate more revenue from resources found in their jurisdiction said are also looking into mining, but assured that States are not left out in the mining development plan of the Federal Government even though mining is in the exclusive list of the Constitution.
“With states being under pressure to boost their internally generated revenue, more states are looking to mining as a source of additional income. This is understandable but we must be mindful about the exclusivity of the Federal Government under our constitution in order not to erode investor confidence in Nigeria as the mining industry prizes policy consistency and predictability. Except the constitution is changed, we must abide by this provision.
“Together with state governments, we have come up with several initiatives to incentivize states to become key influencers (if not direct economic participants) in how the mining value chain develops within their jurisdictions.
“I must emphasize that our constitution is clear about the exclusivity of the Federal Government over mineral resources ownership, management and revenue collection, distribution, and management.
“However, the success of our efforts in developing the mining sector is predicated on successful Federal-State coordination and efforts towards common goals. With this partnership in place, we can both build holistic partnerships with the mining industry to build the global competitiveness of the Nigerian mining industry and its ability to contribute to the sustainable development of Nigeria”, he stated
Meanwhile, he also disclosed that “So far, the ministry has resuscitated MIREMCO in 34 states of the Federation with the states yet to resuscitate it being Borno, Bayelsa and Taraba States. In so doing, we mobilised32 states with funding in 2019, provided field vehicles to 16 states, and sensitized mineral title holders and the public facilitated by MIREMCO in various States of the Federation. Together we resolved 37 cases of conflict through the intervention of the MIREMCO.
“We held our last Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Abuja in January 2020. While we have made significant progress with resuscitating and operationalizing the MIREMCO, funding to make it sustainable remains challenging, which we are currently trying to address”, he said.
According to him, the government is doing everything to strengthen the nation’s geosciences base which is to drive investment growth into exploration and mining industries through improvements in the quality and breadth of geo-scientific data as well as improvements in data accessibility for investors and other interested parties through the following activities being undertaken by Data gathering and analysis through the Nigeria Minerals Exploration Project (NIMEP).
“We are currently implementing NIMEP to generate credible geoscience data capable of giving confidence to investors and prospective investors in the Nigerian minerals sector.
“The project has engaged high caliber local and international professionals to conduct exploration in brown and green fields for gold, lead, zinc, tantalite, lithium, and iron ore. The government intends to extend this programme to other mineral commodities due to the positive reaction received by the investment public at different global mining conferences.
“Apart from NIMEP, the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) and the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency (NSRMEA) are also carrying out exploration campaigns for other minerals.
“Data Dissemination and Archiving through our ongoing establishment of a complete and comprehensive national electronic geo-center at the NGSA: We are currently establishing the geo-center for geoscientific data and information collection, preservation, and dissemination so that a wide range of users and communities, particularly investors can use it for investment decision making and other purposes from anywhere in the world.
“Strengthening critical sector institutions and governance: Our objective is to build the organizational and functional capabilities of the ministry and agencies through the following ongoing initiatives: Improvement of the Mining Cadastre Office (MCO)and field operations: We have invested in information technology and upgraded and automated the MCO mineral title administration and processes and created six regional offices with centralized processing of applications. MCO’s automation will facilitate the online application, processing, and management of mineral titles in Nigeria. We expect to commission the new MCO shortly.
“Improvement of regulatory management and enforcement: through our ongoing establishment of a remote sensing center at the Ministry headquarters to identify and monitor artisanal, small, and large-scale mining activities. Our objective is to improve overall mining sector management across the country, particularly the control and management of informal miners. We are also investing in tools for improved field inspection and monitoring.
“Improving the Environmental Impact: We are building our capacity to manage environmental and social impacts from mining and also investing in improving environmental surveillance and green mining practices to ensure minimum damage to the environment.
“Optimisation of our mineral value chain: Our objective is to minimize the export of raw materials, creating value along several mineral value chains that would increase industrial and manufacturing activities, create employment, and foster skills development. Presently, our priority is anchored in the gold sector.
“We are creating a gold ecosystem to minimize the high rate of illegal gold mining and smuggling, increase government’s revenue from the resource, create jobs, and improve environmental and social stewardship; Through the ongoing Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Initiative (PAGMI) we are organizing, formalizing, and equipping Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Miners (ASGMs) in Kaduna, Kebbi, Osun, Niger, and Zamfara states; Miners of precious, metallic, and industrial minerals will be linked to formal markets through licensed private mineral buying centers. One such initiative is the recently launched Dukia-Heritage Bank Buying Centre.”
He also added that “Two companies (Kian Smith and Dukia Gold Limited), located in Ogun state and the FCT, have been granted licenses to refine gold and are in the process of building their refineries; We are trying to stimulate mineral processing across the country using a cluster or hub approach. Each cluster will be provided with road and power infrastructure to encourage investors in processing and refining and to support a network of miners and processors.
“In the longer term, the upgrade, completion, and operation of the Ajaokuta Steel plant operations would enhance jobs and revenue generation. The project is based on a bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Russia, with funding from the Afrexim bank and the Russian Export Centre.”