Nigeria’s solid mineral sector is under-exploited.
The Nigerian Export Import Bank, NEXIM, has said it has so far committed about nine per cent of its total investment development portfolio, about N2.5 billion, to the development of the country’s solid mineral sector since August 2009.
Its Managing Director/CEO, Roberts Orya, told Patrons of the Miners’ Association of Nigeria, who visited him in his office in Abuja, that the bank is ready to support the solid minerals as a cardinal sector under its MASS (manufacturing, agro-processing, solid minerals and services) agenda.
“This (commitment) does not scratch the surface of the sector’s requirement if Nigeria is to take advantage and benefit from the huge mineral deposits which God has blessed the country,” Mr. Orya said. “Solid minerals mining is a high capital intensive area and requires strong government intervention to unlock its huge revenue and job creation benefits for the country.”
He said the meeting with the association was to further deliberate on a strategic framework they are developing to better structure and attract sustainable investments to the sector, pointing out that the agenda focused on issues of mutual cooperation with NEXIM and the Federal Ministry of Mines & Steel Development towards the development of the sector.
Presenting the bank’s strategic initiative and market focus to the association, Mr. Orya stated that Nigeria was endowed with more than 33 commercially viable solid minerals that could be exploited for the country’s economic benefit.
These include gold, lead-zinc ore (Galena), iron ore, columbite, ilmenite, cassiterite, uranium, copper, molybdenite, manganese, wolframite, rutile and diorite, bauxite, gypsum, talc, bentonite and barite, rock salt, gem stones, and kaolin.
Using statistics from the Mining Cadastre Office and the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency factsheet, Mr. Orya pointed out that the picture of the benefits would be appreciated more when it is considered that some of these minerals are in very dense deposits.
He said minerals like talc has been identified as having deposits in excess of 40 million tonnes in locations such as Niger, Osun, Kogi, Ogun and Kaduna states; iron ore, with over 3 billion metric tonnes of deposits in Kogi, Enugu and Niger States as well as the Federal Capital Territory; and lead/zinc veins, about 10 million tonnes of deposits spread over eight states.
Others include bitumen about 42 billion tonnes deposits, which almost twice the existing crude oil reserves, making Nigeria one of the world’s most bituminous destinations owing to its low sulphur and ash content and the most environment-friendly; and coal, nearly three billion tonnes of reserves in 17 identified fields and over 600 million tonnes of proven reserves.
The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, says the solid minerals sector contributes less than one per cent to the country Gross Domestic Product, GDP, as against nine per cent of South Africa’s GDP in 2011.
“For NEXIM, the critical issues ranges from how to get the government and other stakeholders to properly structure the mining sector, increase funding, and attract much need investment capital; infrastructural development for the industry, especially the establishment of internationally certified laboratories and setting up of internationally recognized and endorsed mining calendar for Nigeria as prevalent in other regimes with dedicated attention to solid mineral exploitation,” Mr. Orya said.
The President, Miners’ Association of Nigeria, Sani Shehu, thanked the NEXIM Bank management for its commitment and support to its members in the quest to open up the solid mineral sector, saying the group is overwhelmed by the passion of the bank to support the players towards the growth of the mining industry in Nigeria.
He agreed with the notion that the slow development of the solid minerals sector was attributable to man-made and natural factors, and stressed the need for government to quickly harmonise its policies on mining, including adequate funding, to enable an investment-friendly environment.
As a capital-intensive industry, which requires long-term investments before its potentials could be fully realised, Mr. Shehu, cited the experience in India, which is less endowed with solid minerals than Nigeria, but is currently earning about $75 billion (about N11.3 trillion) annually from solid minerals.
“It took South Africa more than 15 years of steady investment to get there and the country now earns over $30 billion (about N4.5 trillion) annually from the sub-sector,” he said.
He told NEXIM Management that the association is now a ‘national industry association’ whose membership includes all categories of licensed miners, better positioned to meet the Bank’s conditions to secure facilities to boost their activities especially in the areas of beneficiation and value addition.
On establishing a ‘Mining Calendar’ for Nigeria, the Miners’ President assured that within the next year, the Association would work with other stakeholders to get that set up for a designated week in November each year.