Expression of interest by prospective investors in the country’s bitumen project would commence in June, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, has disclosed.
Speaking in Abeokuta during his tour of mining sites in Ogun State at the weekend, Mr. Fayemi said government was working with the consulting firm of PriceWaterHouseCoopers, to actualise the commencement of the process.
Nigeria is reputed to have the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, spanning approximately 120 kilometres in Ogun, Ondo, Lagos and Edo States.
The Minister, who visited the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, prior to the tour, urged state governments to key into the bitumen project to change their economic fortunes.
Mr. Fayemi said the Federal Government would partner with the state governments, investors and host communities to ensure a smooth coordination of the project, to ensure that international best practices were strictly adhered to.
Emphasis, he said, would be placed on exploration and exploitation of the minerals, stressing that protective investors would be encouraged to set up processing plants, to ensure value addition and employment generation.
The minister said rather than compete, Federal Government would partner with states to conduct mining operations in the states.
“Our expression of interest by prospective investors in bitumen will start within the next two to three months. We want states to key into the project, and Ogun is one of the states endowed with bitumen deposits. So, we want states to take advantage of this,” he said.
The minister who stated that about 80 per cent of asphaltic materials used for road construction in the country was still being imported in spite of the vast bitumen deposits, said government would focus on ensuring that serious investors who have proven work plan, financial capacity and readiness to build processing plants, were given licences.
The processing plants, according to Mr. Fayemi, would boost local production, help Nigeria meet local demands and create job opportunities for her teeming youths.
He urged state governments to set up special purpose vehicles, or enter into joint ventures with renowned operators to invest in the bitumen project.
“The ministry would subject activities of the investors to proper monitoring in order to ensure compliance with laid down environmental and safety procedures and guidelines,” the minister added.
Restating government’s commitment to security of investment, Mr. Fayemi said the establishment of the Mines Police division by the Nigerian Police as well as the emergence of the Joint Task Force on Mines surveillance would put an end to criminal activities in the mines and ensure safety of lives and investments in the mines.
The Minister later visited Dangote Cement plant and limestone mine in Ibese and Lafarge Cement plant and limestone mine in Ewekoro, where he inspected production and exploration activities of the two indigenous cements companies.
Earlier at a meeting, the minister had frowned at the attitude of some operators who are in the habit of exporting unprocessed minerals.
He said the ministry was working with the Customs and other security agencies to halt the trend.
Similarly, he said states would now ratify consents, once the host communities had ratified it. This he said would reduce the tension between the state and federal government.
He said it was important for operators to cooperate with state governments and the host communities where they are carrying out their mining activities, in spite of the fact that they got their licences from the Federal Government.