Stakeholders in the mining sector argue that Nigeria is vastly endowed with a lot of mineral resources and underscore the need for the creation of a pragmatic roadmap for t heir development and sustainable exploitation.
They, however, note that successive administrations have been making specific efforts to revitalise the solid minerals sector, considering its importance in national economic development plans.
Available records show that Nigeria’s mining industry is underdeveloped, contributing only three per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Observers note that the exploitation of the country’s solid minerals has been largely affected by the discovery of petroleum, as revenues from crude oil soon became the mainstay of the nation’s economy.
They, however, concede that the roadmap, which the Federal Government presented in 2013, could serve as a veritable guide for all the solid minerals’ development processes in the country.
In January 2013, the Federal Government announced a roadmap for solid minerals’ development and economists laud the plan as a pragmatic effort to grow and diversify the nation’s economy.
Unfolding the Federal Government’s plans to transform the sector, President Goodluck Jonathan recently expressed the government’s intention to develop mining activities, as part of strategies to diversify Nigeria’s mono-product economy.
He stressed that the government’s commitment towards the development of solid minerals was evident in its design of a roadmap for the transformation of the solid minerals sector.
According to him, the highlights of the roadmap include increasing the sector’s contribution to the GDP from three per cent to five per cent by 2015 and 10 per cent by 2020.
President Jonathan observed that Nigeria’s coal deposits alone had the potential of generating more than 30 per cent of the nation’s electricity needs with the development of appropriate technology.
At the presentation of the roadmap, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, said that the blueprint had articulated strategies for the diversification of the economy.
He urged the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to ensure that the roadmap was utilised by foreign and local investors in the solid minerals sector so as to achieve better results.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Musa Sada said that the ministry would ensure that the solid minerals sector was repositioned to provide job opportunities for the youth.Apart from this, economists believe that the roadmap will tackle some challenges facing mining operations such as inadequate geo-sciences data which is needed to facilitate comprehensive minerals’ exploration by the private sector.
In a recent interview, Sada said that the policy thrust of the roadmap entailed import substitution, job creation and promotion of modern mining practices, among others.
He said that the roadmap would increase per capita consumption of steel, provide legal and regulatory framework for the metals sub-sector, and guarantee transparency in the grant of mining titles and permits.
The minister noted that although the roadmap had been implemented in some parts of the country, its full implementation had been hindered by factors such as poor funding, security issues and inadequate infrastructural facilities at mines sites.
Nevertheless, the Director-General of Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office, Malam Muhammad Amate, said that the office had been working hard to address the challenges.
According to him, the office has become a credible Federal Government agency mandated to facilitate the development of mineral resources in the country and function as a gateway to mining.
Amate said that the office guaranteed an independent, efficient and transparent system in the granting, administration and management of all mining titles.
“In modern term, the office is the combination of geographic information system, database and procedures relating to the application, processing and grant of mining rights,’’ he said.
He said that four foreign companies would soon begin the mining of gold and iron ore in Kebbi, Osun and Kogi.
He also said more than 20 foreign companies from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, China, Republic of Niger, India, South Africa and Ukraine had obtained exploration licences to carry out solid minerals’ exploration across the country.
Amate stressed that the office had issued more than 4,000 mineral titles from 2011 to date, while generating N2.2-billion income via the issuance of titles to mining companies during the period.
A former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. John Jegede said that the roadmap would facilitate Nigeria’s efforts to attain some socio-economic and environmental objectives via sustainable exploration of mineral resources.
Jegede said that after the launch of the roadmap, it had become the reference document that guided the ministry, stakeholders and the public in efforts to assess the performance of the solid minerals sector.
The Chairman of Solid Minerals Development Fund, Mr. Utsu Adie, said that the strategic critical success factor of the roadmap was its capacity to attract investments into the solid minerals sector.
“The agency is discussing with the International Mining for Development Centre, an initiative supported by the Australian government, to provide training and capacity building in mining, geology, environment, laboratory training and mineral processing,’’ he said.
However, the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences, Jos, Malam Idris Umar, said that the global increase in demand for mineral commodities had necessitated the production of a good roadmap for the development of the country’s solid minerals.
“The challenges of becoming a major world player in the mining industry require a conscious and focused development of professional manpower in mining and geosciences.
“Government recognises the need to expand the scope of the mandate of the institute to reflect the current realities in the global minerals industry,’’ he said.
He said that ever since the ministry launched the roadmap, the institute had been working in line with the roadmap’s objectives, conceding, however, that several challenges had hindered the implementation of the roadmap.
All the same, economic experts note that the challenges should not be allowed to truncate the execution of the roadmap. They insist that the government has no other choice than to diversify Nigeria’s economy, considering the abundance of the country’s solid minerals and their economic potential.
The experts insist that the roadmap will reposition the solid minerals sector and strengthen it to foster the growth of the national economy.