By Luka Binniyat
ABUJAÂ Nigeria solid mineral sector has attracted the attention of the world’s biggest Bank , becoming the toast of the Asian basedÂ conglomerateÂ Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) – which is leading investors from Europe, Asia, North America the Middle East and some African countries to invest in Nigerian mining sector.
Also, the London Stock Exchange is partnering with Nigeria to showcase Nigerian mining sector to its investors.
The former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke made this known in her hand-over speech to the Permanent Sectary of the Ministry, Engr. Sheik Musa Goni in Abuja last month.
Though she did not indicate to what tune investors are willing to plough into the Nigerian mineral sector, she said the response of blue chips mining firms to Nigerian mineral is awesome.
She however said that she was leaving some pending issues, which include the re-opening of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL), Mining Regulations and some bills pending before the National Assembly, among others.
â€œIn the last one and half years we have developed the National Coal resources into eleven (11) Strategic Coal Clusters, specifically for investors interested in coal-fired power plantsâ€, she said
â€œThis Ministry has also established the Framework for the Development of Coal to Power Plantsâ€, she added
According to her, it was under her tenure that initiation on-going open and competitive bidding process for the allocation of Bitumen and Tar Sand Blocks in South West Nigeria took place.
She has also presented bills for the National Metallurgical Training Centre, Onitsha and Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences, Jos to the Executive Council of the Federation for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
Mrs. Madueke went to say that she has executed re-validation of mineral titles in alignment with the Mines and Minerals Act of 2007 and completed the processing of new title applications.
She did not however say when the new applications would be granted.On Nigerian airborne magnetic survey, she said thatÂ 95% of the country landmass, has been covered with the results interpreted and launched in Nigeria , South Africa and Canada this year.
She agreed that completion of the airborne geo-physical survey for remaining 5% of the country (Lagos and Niger Delta Area) is yet to be done
She told the gathering that under her, a program of Micro-Credit Grants for the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) Sector was completed.
â€œWe have also established new laboratories for the effective monitoring of Mines Environmental Compliance at the Headquarters and Six (6) Geopolitical zonesâ€, she said.
â€œToday, Nigerian has established a Mining Cadastre System, created an inventory of abandoned mines, with an appropriate action plan for their reclamationâ€, she said.
According to her, she has initiated the gemstone certification process, which was not in place before.
On the Steel sector she said she has initiated and submitted to the Presidency a report reflecting various business options for the reopening of operations at the ASCL and the National Iron Ore Company, Limited (NIOMCO), According to her, the acting president eventually approved that two troubled companies be re-opened for operation.
On pending issues in the steel sector, the Minister said that she has already arranged for payment of 10-month salary arrears to the staff of both entities while the commencement of negotiation with the Federal Ministry of Finance, for the payment of outstanding pension and terminal benefits for ASCL and NIOMCO staff has starting with a timeline for payment.
According to her, the Technical Audits of ASCL and NIOMCO have commenced and that the completion of the Super Concentrate Plant at NIOMCO would soon be achieved.
In his response, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Engr..Sheik Goni, noted that under the former Minister the total grant from the World Bank in support of solid minerals development in the country has risen to $200m.
According to him, the World Bank had in the past provided $120m for the artisanal miners and an additional $80m in the last one year to promote medium scale mining activities.
â€œIn 2009, the embargo on applications for mining licenses was lifted and we had over 9,000 applications. Between October last year to date, we have completed processing ofÂ 9,300 applications for mining licenses and improved on our speed of processing application to 24 hoursâ€œ, he said.
Goni who was the last Director of Nigerian Mining Cadastre office, said that when the Mineral and Mines Act came out in March, 2007, the ministry issued 2,000 mining licenses, but that they were in breach of the mining Act.
â€œProper procedures and practices were not followed and this led the ministry to order stoppage of the processing of the mining license. But we were under a lot of pressure. We had 9,300 new applications pending and 2,300 defective applications. We had to take a bold decision to revalidate and ensure that all the licenses issued conformed with the appropriate governing the sectorâ€œ, he said
â€œThe Minister was going to convene a World Press Conference next week(March 29) to announce the issuance of new mining licenseâ€, he said, â€œso as it stands now, we just have to wait and see the next move of the Presidentâ€, he said.
Speaking to Sweet Crude in an exclusive chat, he said that the outgoing Minister had set the ball rolling for the two sectors to take-off properly.
â€œShe has done extensive lobbying convincing investors to come to Nigeria in the last one yearâ€, he said.
â€œWhen we went to China, on the bill of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the experience was awesomeâ€, he said.
â€œThis Bank has investors whose turnover in not less than $20 billion (N3 trillion) yearlyâ€, he went on, â€œand they held several meetings with us, as we net them all over Chinaâ€, he told Sweet Crude
On the London Stock Exchange, he said that the Nigeria was graciously treated/
â€œWe were allowed to talk to investor’s right on the floor of the stock exchangeâ€, he said.
â€œYou can imagine the calibre of investors that listenedâ€, he said
â€œAnd the Minister was creative in wooing them. She did not do the talking, instead, it was foreign firms that were mining here that did the talking for us and the also answer some of the questionsâ€, she said.
â€œWe were told that nobody had been privilege to do any kind of marketing in that place beforeâ€, he said.
â€œToday, as a result of her drive, we have a reasonable number of companies mining legally than in recent timesâ€, he said
Other who speak and begged that their names not be mentioned, praised the outgoing Minister for her calmness and composure.
â€œShe does not pretend to know it allâ€, one them said. â€She listens a lot and she is blessed with a sharp mind to grasp the issue and quickly analyse itâ€, he added.
Another official said that the former Minister did not interfere with the running of parastatals under her.
â€œThis allowed us to work smoothly and the results are self-evidentâ€, he said.
â€œWe shall miss her a lotâ€, he said.