EconomySEPT 19 EDITIONTrending

NIGERIA BEYOND OIL: THE SOLID MINERALS ALTERNATIVE

By John Dakwak

Nigeria has depended on crude oil resources as a source of revenue for a very long time, yet, oil has been unable to offer the country a well articulated and vibrant economy. Misery, poverty and unemployment of every kind are very visible amongst the people. Imagine what a well articulated and exploited Nigerian minerals sector can bring to the economy. It can ultimately reduce poverty and end unemployment and become the greatest source of revenue for the country. Reasons being that most solid mineral sites are located in rural areas and villages where the very poor reside and unemployment is severe.

Deferent varieties of Gemstones

Have you ever wondered what the main mineral resources in Nigeria are and their potentials? Well, unknown to many, Nigeria is richly endowed with 44 different minerals types scattered in more than 450 different locations across the country. It simply means that the development and optimization of the solid mineral sector will go a long way in stabilizing the economy. Solid minerals is a viable alternative to oil revenue which the country has over depended on. A properly managed solid minerals sector can address the high rates of unemployment and poverty that have bedeviled the country. Therefore, giving a clear expository of the country’s endowment is imperative and critical. Economists, geologists and surveyors have long agreed that under the Nigerian soil are wealth and riches untold and untapped.

The Nigerian Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative, NEITI report suggests that there are over 40 different kinds of solid minerals and precious metals buried in Nigerian soil waiting to be exploited. The commercial value of Nigeria’s solid minerals has been estimated to run into hundreds of trillions of dollars, with 70 per cent of these buried in the bowels of Northern Nigeria. President of Miners’ Empowerment Association of Nigeria, Mr. Sunny Ekosin, reveals that Nigeria loses a whopping 8trillion naira annually in unexploited gold alone. According to NEITI’s audit findings, solid mineral deposits are scattered all over Nigeria, with more deposits in certain areas than others.

Crystal formation gemstone
Crystal formation gemstone

Solid minerals has the potential of becoming a major foreign exchange earner and it has the capacity to cover the gaps created by falling oil prices. It is estimated that the country can earn up to $10 billion by optimising the exploration of just 10 minerals out of the more than 40 of such in commercial quantities. If the mining sector grows to the point of producing global globally competitive final products from the abundantly available raw materials, the country would have succeeded in achieving the much desired import substitution, conserve foreign reserve and possibly earn some foreign exchange.

The sector is arguably a credible alternative for creating employment for the country’s teaming unemployed youth. The ability of the government to diversify the economic structure of the country for greater economic performance and efficiency can bring about prosperity and reduce poverty and unemployment. So far, what has been happening in the solid minerals sector is smaller than it’s true potential as the vast majority of the country’s mining assets are yet to be exploited.

Mining exploration in progress

In fact, the sector has been more or less operating sharply below capacity, with many mining operations manned by small scale artisanal miners, as opposed to the large scale players. From the early operations led by the then British Colonial government, the country went on to a more private sector focused model, and then moved to companies controlled by government such as the National Steel Company and National Coal Corporation. The policy shift created too much uncertainty which occasioned many private investors leaving Nigeria and the sector suffering sharply as a result.

The exploitation and exploration of solid minerals are governed by the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 which was passed into law on March 16, to repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999. The Act vests control of all properties and minerals in Nigeria in the state and prohibits unauthorised exploration or exploitation of minerals. All lands in which minerals have been found in commercial quantities shall from the commencement of the Act be acquired by the Federal Government in accordance with the Land Use Act.

The Act also provides for the establishment of the Mining Cadastre Office, which is responsible for the administration of mineral titles and the maintenance of the cadastral registers, and empowers the Minister of solid minerals, by regulation, to determine areas eligible for the grant of an exploration or mining lease based on a competitive bidding process. The Mining Cadastre Office shall collect a fee for processing of applications for mineral titles and an annual service fee established at a fixed rate per square cadastral unit for administrative and management services. In other words, the Federal Government owns, controls, monitors the exploitation and exploration of natural solid mineral resources in the country.

Today, following extensive reforms started in 1999, which essentially crystallized around the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007, Nigeria is once again on the path to providing a transparent and workable regulatory and policy environment for private sector led mining. Companies have started responding to all the efforts made by the successive governments. Today we have companies such as Tongyi Allied Mining, Dangote Group, Segilola Gold, Kogi Iron Mines, Multi verse Resources, and Australian Mines Ltd etc blazing the trail in the mining sector. The country is looking forward to welcoming more companies into the mining sector.The good news for Nigeria is that the country has tremendous domestic demand for industrial minerals and metals in the construction industry.

Diamond and Gemstone

President Muhammadu Buhari has often said that he wants the sector to be a key source of economic growth and diversified revenue base for Nigeria. In fact, Mr. President stated clearly thatthe goal is to build a more diversified economy in which oil remains important, but it’s share of the overall portfolio of revenue sources declines as the whole pie grows bigger. The recently approved Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) emphasizes the place of solid minerals in the economic growth strategy of the country. The strategic aspiration is to build a sustainable, globally competitive mining sector, and related supporting sectors that will prudently use the finite resources available to improve the quality of life for Nigerians.

The Nigerian ministry of solid minerals has adopted the “use it or lose it” license provisions and automating of it’s operations. The Ministry has vowed to work closely with banks, and other financial institutions, public and private to improve access to capital for solid minerals sector operators, large and small in order to build teams to help drive it’s growth. The ministry intends to use solid minerals as a growth catalyst for communities.

Coal Miners

The Minister of solid minerals, amongst other things, is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the orderly and sustainable development of Nigeria’s mineral resources, creating an enabling environment for private investors, both foreign and domestic, by providing adequate infrastructure for mining activities and also identifying areas where government intervention is desirable in achieving policy goals in mineral resources development.

The failure of Nigeria, since her independence in 1960, to put in place a structure that will make the benefits of the exploitation of solid minerals available to all Nigerians and foreigner is unfortunate. However, the recent policy framework the government is putting in place to encourage investors and to open up the sector is quite encouraging. The sector can achieve a better feat, by first overcome some of it’s challenges, which includes lack of proper regulation and enforcement, lack of funding, poor processing facilities, poor quality control and dilapidated infrastructure, like roads, to mention just few. Illegal miners and their activities must be dealt with once and for all.

This is where the states and the Federal Government have been losing good revenue over the years and will continue to lose if concerted efforts are not put in place in good time, to start harvesting attractive returns from the mineral deposits. It is a sector that is unattractive to pipeline vandals, illegal bunkerers and bombing of export terminals so the risk factor is significantly reduced.

One of several ways by which this could possibly be achieved is to get the illegal miners, at least, those willing to embrace the new policy, to come together to form companies licensed by government to mine the minerals. Another is to encourage the few registered ones with incentives that will fast-track the development of the sector. This will allow government to monitor them effectively and get beneficial returns on their oversight. Punishment for illegal miners can be made through plea-bargaining or outright confinement to prisons. This is particularly necessary in the short and medium terms because the illegal miners understand the terrain better than any government agencies, new comers or any group of people for that matter.

Foreign Investors chatting a new pathway for the Nigeria Mining Sector

The medium and long term solution will be for the government to set up solid mineral processing plants in the country. It is to these plants the registered miners will take their products for further processing thereby earning more money on the end products for the miners and for the government. It is an incontrovertible fact that government has no business in business particularly now that the hands of the central government is full. It is therefore imperative for the federal and concerned state governments of Nigeria to go into partnership with private investors, local and foreign, in order to add more value to accruals that will make life more meaningful for the greater good of the majority.

Some experts say the way to go is to concession some of the critical infrastructure that are commercially viable, such as transport infrastructure, rail lines, highways, seaports, airports, among others, and invite private sector capital to build this infrastructure under Build Operate and Transfer (BOT), because the availability of these minerals opens up opportunities in areas like export and use in domestic industries for generation of foreign exchange and internal revenue; the emergence of new industrial sites and downstream products; employment generation for Nigerians, particularly in the rural areas where the minerals are found.?

The multiplier benefits to the citizenry are enormous. In fact, the solid minerals sector can very easily be the largest employment sector of the economy, since deposits abound in virtually every state of the federation. Other benefits are technology transfer and development of infrastructure, especially in the rural areas (roads, hospitals, rails, schools and housing). On financing, the Bank of Industry (Bol) is expected to play a very big role. The Bank of Industry should help interested companies secure equipment to process the minerals. If the Bank of Industry is able to helps to secure equipment for the companies, the companies can crush the products at that point.

The Federal Government can set up Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement that will enable crushing plants spring up in different parts of the country so that people can crush them before exporting. There most also be deliberate policies that would attract foreigner direct investment in the sector so that miners with requisite skills from places like South Africa and South America, where mining is done big time, can come in.?

HERE IS A DISTRIBUTION OF MINERAL TYPES ACROSS THE STATES IN THE COUNTRY [Source: IHSMR, 2016)

ABIA
Glass sand, limestone, salt, shale, ball clay, galena, granite, marble, laterite, bentonite, phosphate, kaolin, pyrite, feldspar, lignite, gypsum, sphalerite, clay.

ADAMAWA

Granite, clay, gypsum, limestone, uranium, kaolin, coal, trona, barite, salt, marble, magnesite, laterite.

AKWAIBOM

Clay, glass sand, salt, silica sand, granite, coal, kaolin, limestone, lignite.

ANAMBRA

Iron stone, clay, sand stone, kaolin, pyrite, lignite.

BAUCHI

Trona, kaolin, cassiterite, gypsum, mica, tantalite, galena, iron ore, gemstone, silica sand, sphalerites, barites, columbite, lead/zinc, muscovite, quartz, tin, glass sand, salt, monazite, feldspar, graphite, wolfram, coal, stone aggregate, tantalum, rutile, tungsten, copper, talc, ilmenite, zircon.

BAYELSA

Silica sand, salt.

BENUE

Bentonite, crude salt, limestone, glass sand, gemstone, barites, feldspar, marble, mica, slilica sand, galena, quartz, lead/zinc, clay, coal, gypsum, kaolin, anhydrite, calcium, sulphate, brick clay, crushed and dimension stone, fluorspar, wolframite, bauxite, shale, magnetite, ilmenite, brenite.

BORNO

Natural salt, silica sand, topaz, sapphire, mica, quartz, gypsum, uranium, iron ore, magnesite, feldspar, granite, aquamarine, nepheline, limestone, kaolin, bentonite, laterite, refractory clay, trona, gold, tin, potash.

CROSS RIVER

Limestone, salt, coal, manganese, mica, ilmenite, gold, quartz, glass sand, tourmaline, kaolin, tin ore, sharp sand, clay, talc, granite, galena, lead/zinc, goethite, muscovite, uranium, barites, rutile.

DELTA

Laterite, kaolin, gravel, silica sand, ball clay, bauxite, granite, sharp sand, clay.

EBONYI

Lead/zinc, salt, limestone, ball clay, refractory clay, gypsum, granite, silver.

EDO

Charnockite, copper, gold, marble, granite, gypsum, diorite, lignite, limestone, ceramic clay.

EKITI

Lignite, clay, charnockite, quartz, limestone, granite, gemstone, bauxite, cassiterite, columbite, tantalite, feldspar, kaolin.

ENUGU

Coal, lead/zinc, limestone, barites, kaolin, iron ore, silica sand, salt, laterite, clay.

GOMBE

Limestone, coal, lignite, gypsum, clay.

IMO

Kaolin, laterite sand, limestone, salt, marble, shale.

JIGAWA

Potash, talc, glass sand, granite, laterite, kaolin, silica, iron ore, quartz, limestone.

KADUNA

Gemstone, gold, granite, Muscovite, manganese, clay, graphite, sand, zircon, kyanite, tin, columbite, ilmenite, bismuth, lithium, wolframite, cassiterite, talc, feldspar, rutile.

KANO

Thorium, wolframite, monazite, granite, hyalite, beryl, amethyst, gold, tin, clay, laterite, cassiterite, columbite, galena, ilmenite, phyrochlorite, kaolin, gemstone, silica, silver.

KATSINA

Gold, manganese, laterite, feldspar, black tourmaline, amethyst, quartz, kaolin, mica, gypsum, sillimanite, clay, granite sand, uranium, asbestos, tourmaline, serpentine (chrysotile asbestos), chromites, ilmenite,
diamond, graphite, iron ore, potash, silica.

KEBBI

Bauxite, clay, gold, salt, iron ore, feldspar, limestone, quartz, manganese, kaolin, mica.

KOGI

Iron ore, gemstone, clay, sand, marble, limestone, feldspar, dolomite, phosphate, mica, cassiterite, granite, ornamental stone, coal, kaolin.

KWARA

Kaolin, silica, clay, dolomite, quartz, marble, feldspar, gold, tantalite, cassiterite, granite, limestone.

LAGOS

Bitumen, silica sand, sharp sand, gravel, laterite.

NASARAWA

Emerald, garnet, sapphire, topaz, barites, Galena, monazite, zircon, glass sand, coal, cassiterite, gemstone, amethyst, beryl, chrysolite, salt, kaolin.

NIGER

Gold, kaolin, ball clay, limestone, granite, glass sand, iron ore, red clay, feldspar, graphite, cyanite, silica sand, quartz, asbestos, marble, talc, gemstone.

OGUN

Gypsum, limestone, quartz, tar, sand, kaolin, feldspar, silica sand, mica, granite, clay, phosphate.

ONDO

Bitumen, gold, marble, clay, diorite, lignite.

OSUN

Talc, granite, clay, dolomite, ilmenite, feldspar, quartz, limestone, mica.

OYO

Aquamarine, amethyst, tourmaline, dolomite, marble, talc, clay, feldspar, granite, ilmenite, iron ore, kaolin, quartz.

PLATEAU

Tin, columbite, tantalite, cassiterite, gemstone, dimension stone, feldspar, monazite, clay, kaolin, dolomite, mica, zircon, marble, ilmenite, barites, talc, galena, quartz, bismuth ore, garnet, tourmaline, copper, topaz, bauxite, silica, sharp sand, granite, gravel, rutile.

RIVERS

Silica, glass sand, clay.

SOKOTO

Limestone, gypsum, kaolin, potash, granite, laterite, salt, clay, silica, phosphate.

TARABA

Salt, trona, barites, uranium, bauxite, sand, granite, clay, fluorspar.

YOBE

Gypsum, diatomite, clay, sand, bentonite.

ZAMFARA

Gold, lead/zinc, clay, sand, barytes, iron ore, lithium, wolframite, manganese.

FCT

Marble, granite, dolomite, iron ore, lead/zinc, feldspar, gold, clay, laterite, sand.

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