Govt unfolds strategy for solid minerals’ development
The Federal Government has unfolded plans to achieve enhanced growth of the economy through a strategic exploitation of assessed abundant solid mineral resources in the country.
Specifically, the government would leverage on a master plan to reposition the mineral resources’ current 0.34 per cent contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) to a substantial double digit figure in the nearest future, to effectively diversify the economic base, presently being dominated by crude oil.
Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who disclosed the sector’s revival scheme in Abuja recently, explained that it will no longer be business as usual in the mining industry.
In achieving its set goals, Fayemi said the ministry would enter into strategic partnership with the banks to develop interest in the sector and assist investors; the National Assembly for legislation; and other relevant organs of government, in promoting investment opportunities in the sector.
Fayemi also declared that the Federal Government is determined to make the Ajaokuta Steel complex work, in spite of the huge sum of money required to ensure the place is up and running.
For effect, the minister said any current holder of mining licence, who fail to use it would forfeit such, starting by March next year, when the ministry plans to start enforcing the “use it or lose it” doctrine, as enshrined in the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act.
The Minister, who spoke during his inaugural press briefing on the activities of the ministry, said that opportunities abound in the solid minerals sector to actualise President Mohammadu Buhari’s vision of using the sector to diversify the economy and create jobs.
Fayemi, together with the Minister of State for Solid Minerals, Abubakar Bwari, told journalists at the briefing that the roadmap for the mineral sector’s rebirth would include what the ministry intends to achieve in the short, medium and the long term.
The minister pointed out that the country’s solid minerals sector currently makes up about 0.34 per cent of GDP, which translates to about N400 billion in value to the economy.
“While this is a significant role, it is smaller than the true potentials of the sector. In fact, what has been happening is that the sector has more or less been operating sharply below capacity, with many mining operations manned by small scale artisanal miners as opposed to large scale players”, the minister said.
Fayemi however said that when properly structured, the sector has the capacity to provide no fewer than a million direct jobs and contribute as much as the oil and gas sector into the national economy.
Although, the minister noted the global decline in prices of mining products, he said the good news is that Nigeria has a great deal of domestic demand for industrial minerals and metal. “So, we will focus on working with other MDAs to ensure that demand is met by Nigerians miners and processors”.
In order to achieve its set goals, the minister said that certain steps would be taken in the short term. This include an external audit of revenue receipts in the solid minerals sector for the past years.
Similarly, he said the ministry would also conclude arrangements for the establishment of Mines Police in line with the relevant guidelines stipulated in the mining law.
The mining police, according to him, would help the inspectorate division of the ministry do an effective monitoring of mining activities, many of which he said go on unrecorded.
He also said there would be an audit of privatised assets based on the recent update by the Bureau of Public Enterprises to the ministry.
The minister indentified seven critical challenges confronting the sector. These are limited infrastructure, insufficient geological data, limited cooperative federalism, low productivity, Illegal artisanal mining and community challenges, weak institutional capacity, insufficient funding and weak ease of doing business and perception issues.
Fayemi said: “For Nigeria, the continued presence of these issues will hold back market development. Therefore, we must resolve these set of issues as they impact how we choose to compete in the market.”
On the long term, he said the ministry would focus on job creation, block all leakages to shore up its revenue generation; build an industry that would support the country’s industrialisation, build an industry that is sustainable, transparent and environmental friendly.
He added: “We also want to build an industry that integrates states communities and existing artisanal; miners where possible into mining ecosystem.”
“If we deliver on this vision, then we can build a mining sector that Nigerians can be proud of 30 years or more from now. This sector should deliver double digit growth over the next decade with important direct and indirect economic impacts on households.
“To improve our likelihood of building such an outcome, the ministry also sought to extensively understand the entire operations in the sector. Therefore, we continue to review lessons from some of the best mining industries to see what lessons we can draw from their experiences, balancing some of the objectives outlined above”
Fayemi said : “ It is fair to say that we have a great deal of work ahead of us. That said, we are building on a hard fought legacy and it is important that we continue to refine that structure until it gives us the type of industry all Nigerians and our international investor friends will be proud of.
“We ask for your patience but we also recognize our responsibility to boost confidence.
As Solid Mineral’s share of GDP grows over the coming years, we will continually review what we have done well and what can be improved.
“One thing we can guarantee is that this Administration will make choices that will ensure that Nigeria and her partners, domestic and foreign, create a profitable, safe and sustainable solid minerals growth story. Hold us to account and challenge us.” He added.