Stakeholders in the mining sector have suggested that for a holistic restructure of the nation’s economy, Nigerian miners have to be taken seriously through rejuvenation of the mining industry which is expected to boost revenue to the government’s treasury, create employment and earn foreign exchange. RUTH TENE NATSA, in this piece highlights possible ways the government can achieve that.
With the current government’s efforts to tackle the challenges in the development of the Nigerian mineral and mining sector, Nigerian miners have reiterated their commitment to work with the government towards rebuilding the economy.
Due to the important position it occupies economically, the mineral and mining sector has been voted as a viable alternative to oil and a relevant platform for job creation, poverty alleviation and wealth creation.
With that in mind, President of the Nigerian Miners Association (NMA), Alhaji Sani Shehu has said that as efforts to restructure the sector gain momentum, the association, through a five-year strategic development plan, hopes to create 3,000 jobs annually or bi-annually as well as increase the contribution of the sector’s GDP to 10 per cent as against the less than 1 per cent presently.
Shehu, who recalled that the mining sector in the past contributed significantly to the growth of the economy as a major producer of tin, columbite and coal, was optimistic that the sector could be returned to its glorious days.
“The mining industry in the past contributed significantly to the growth of the Nigerian economy. Nigeria was indeed a major producer of tin, columbite and coal and the industry provided massive employment and infrastructural development before it suffered a major setback for decades which created the platform for small scale operators and artisanal miners to take over the sector”, She said.
According to the NMA boss, “It is not appropriate to leave a sector with such potential to be dominated by artisans and small scale miners as the sector still remains a virgin and needs to be properly developed to actualise it’s benefits to the nation. The association recognises measures taken by the government in the recent past to reform mining by creating institutions which had provided a platform for the industry to take off successfully. However, the sector is still severely challenged.
“The mining sector is challenged by unfavourable conditions with regard to access to funding, inadequate geological and bankable data, inadequate skilled labour, inadequate logistical support, artisanal and informal mining as well as inadequate funding to the ministry,” Shehu said.
Other challenges according to him include the interference of mining operations by lower tiers of government as witnessed in Ogun, Oyo, Benue, Cross River states, among others.
“This was because states and local government authorities seemed not to understand their limitations as the mining sector remained on the exclusive lists of the federal government,” Shehu explained.
Meanwhile the Minister Of Mines And Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi has said that “As we look to the years ahead, starting with the year 2017, Our work plan and budget for the year 2017 is inexorably guided by the provisions of the roadmap, particularly the immediate, short, medium and long-term targets we have set. While it is important to note that the implementation of the 2016 budget would be on-going till May 2017, this administration has proposed an increased budget estimate for the sector in the 2017 budget proposal.”
Dr Kayode said “In 2017, we would continue to work to make our mining sector more competitive in the global mining space, and relevant to our domestic needs and strategic sovereign goals. In line with our roadmap, we would focus on priority areas of competitive advantage to drive growth.
The Minister assured that the sector would be focused on developing Nigeria’s priority minerals, which will be those for which data exists around their continued commercial viability.
“Seven such mineral resources – iron ore, coal, bitumen, limestone, lead/zinc, gold, and barite – have been identified as key for Nigeria’s domestic industrialisation and infrastructure requirements” he said
The minister added that “In addition, selective emphasis will be placed on other mineral assets that are critical to existing downstream projects. For example, before the end of Quarter 1, 2017, the Bitumen blocks would be available for interested investors to bid.
On served markets, Dr Fayemi said “Nigeria will initially focus on the domestic market, trading ore and processed materials to domestic buyers at a quality level comparable to imported materials to win market share from imports. As global commodity markets recover, Nigeria will then seek to serve both domestic and export markets. Nigeria will also seek to exploit its mineral assets in such a way as to preserve and extend the life of its holdings for future generations and manage cash earnings carefully.”
He maintained that “Nigeria will focus on building a competitive enabling environment and sector for all entrants, rather than attempt to pre-select winners and losers. While an explicit bias will be in place to encourage formalisation of artisanal miners, the broader goal is to encourage a competitive industry structure.”
“Nigeria’s initial customer focus is to serve companies and end users that already purchase minerals and process material from offshore sources. These will include customers in the cement, oil, power and industrial sectors. For instance, substituting imports of coal with domestically sourced coal would be an example of such a step”, he said.
It would be recalled that the minister had earlier said that “The set-up of the Mining Implementation and Strategy Team (MIST) will drive the effective execution of the roadmap and that the roadmap is the strategy aimed at strengthening stakeholder relationships – federal and state governments, industry, and civil society stakeholders.
Some of these roadmaps, according to him, include: restructuring and reorganization of the MSMD for more efficient operations and enforcement of established laws and regulations governing the mining sector, particularly as it relates to our regulatory authority and processes; expansion of coverage, resolution, and access to geosciences data in Nigeria, and the development of the full value chain capacity, from exploration to mines development, to processing and beneficiation and commencement of the process of working with national & state legislatures and governments to address gaps, and resolve conflicts in mineral resource legislation and harmonizing (financial) incentives for attracting mining majors and juniors to Nigeria and catalyse investments in infrastructure.
The minister added that building knowledge based capacity in the Nigerian mining ecosystem with trainings in local, technical, managerial skills and capabilities required in the industry can move the sector to the next level.
He also added that providing training and extension services for ASMs to improve their productivity and deepening the financial services expertise and access to funds to drive sectoral growth for mining among others were key to ensuring that mining becomes the driver of Nigeria’s economic growth.