Over the past 10 years, Nigeria’s mining industry has experienced a boom in both mineral exploration and mining activities. Notable developments include the enhancement of regulatory standards, the proposed development of a Road Map for the reform of the sector, and the commissioning of state-of –the-art mining laboratory in Kaduna, Kaduna State.
During this period, several mineral prospects for dimension stones, gold, bitumen and uranium have also been developed to various stages of exploration. This has resulted in an increase of the country’s annual gold production from less than one ton per annum in 1998 to about 50 tons in 2008, making Nigeria one of largest producers of metals in Africa, and increasing the potential for making the mining industry the second fastest growing sector of the economy after oil and gas.
While the country continues to record impressive success in attracting investments, the minerals and mining sector has continued to face challenges. The sector’s rapid growth, particularly in small-scale and artisanal mining, swiftly overstretched the Government’s institutional capacity. Existing institutions lack adequate tools, expertise, and the organizational setup required to oversee and support a modern, market-driven mineral sector.
Other challenges of the sector include low integration with other sectors of the economy; low contribution to the GDP compared to the sector growth; slow development of small scale mining; low capacity of the Government to administer the sector; low level of value addition of minerals; and environmental degradation; lack of diversification of minerals from gold and gemstones into base metals and other minerals
Enter the NIMG
The Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences (NIMG) was therefore established by the Federal Government to be the centre of excellence of international standard that would attract students for training and research in Mining and Geosciences from within and outside the country.
Speaking in an interview with Sweetcrude, the Provost of the Institute, Prof. Idowu B. Odeyemi explained that “the Institute is designed to provide an opportunity for manpower training and institutional capacity building for the mining sector, from which practically oriented and capable management cadre of manpower will be produced to plan and manage the development activities in the mining sector.”
According to him, the curriculum for achieving this level of competence and capability in mining and geosciences, is different, of a higher standard and at a more advanced level than those currently obtained from the strict academic institutions in the country and includes practical field training in mining and geosciences.
Prof. Odeyemi, who noted that the mission of the Institute was to bring back the glory of mining education in Nigeria, was quick to highlight the much-needed financial shot in the arm the Institute received from the World Bank’s Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project (SMMRP), which was designed to help the Government meet the challenges and take advantage of opportunities within the sector.
Analytical work and activities under this Project have helped to attract investments for mineral exploration and mine development through a first generation of improvements to the mineral sector framework, including improvements of institutions and agencies administering the sector.
The concept of a Training Institute for mining in the country dates back to 1923 when the Mines Department was created with mostly expatriate mining professionals. There immediately arose a need to train local technical staff to assist the expatriates in the mines. For this purpose, the School of Mines was established in Jos in present-day Plateau State in 1952. This was upgraded in 1958 to include mining technology in general with a Diploma Certificate issued to graduating students.
With the revised policy on mining and exploration in 1971, the Federal government, among other things, decided to establish the Nigerian Mining Institute as a distinct, independent project ubder the Third National Development Plan (1975-1980).
In 1995, a Committee of eminent persons set up by government to produce a Solid Minerals Policy for the country recommended that the Instute should engage in training higher level manpower by addressing the gap left in the training of mining engineers in the universities and polytechnics, and that it should run courses not usually covered in the routine curricula of the higher institutions.