By Gabriel Ewepu
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, has explained how Nigeria lost its place in the London Metal Exchange many years ago, blaming it on over-dependence on oil and gas.
Adegbite made the disclosure while on tour of some media organizations in South West recently, where he said government is doing all it could to restore lost glory of the mining sector.
He said: “The moment we found oil, we turned our focus away from mining and it died. We are trying to revive it. Nigeria was once quoted on the London Metal Exchange. We were the highest exporter of Columbite in the world, importing tin from Jos, exporting coal from Enugu to the world; we can bring back that era.
“We don’t want to export raw ore in Nigeria anymore, we want to do benefaction and that is the downstream policy the Ministry is working on; and when it comes on stream, nobody can export raw ore in Nigeria again; whatever you mine, you must process locally.”
He also stated that his Ministry is on the move to introduce pre-shipment inspectors for mineral export.
He explained that these pre-shipment inspectors were going to be brought on board based on their knowledge, equipment and can confirm the value of what is being exported and ensure payments of appropriate royalties to government.
He also pointed out that government is working hard to attract big mining companies into the country to do large scale mining that would boost the economy and create more jobs.
He posited that the sector has potential to match oil and gas but, “The lone efforts of artisanal miners would not be enough to generate the needed resources to match oil and gas unless we have big investors and that is why we go on international road shows but the big investors will not come to Nigeria if we do not have data.”
According to him, the ongoing exploration would boost data generation through the National Integrated Mineral exploration Project (NIMEP) and confirmation of availability of minerals in different parts of the country including the quantum of minerals that would attract the major mining companies to the country.
He expressed optimism that with the high gold deposits in the country Nigeria would be a gold business hub.
“It showed proof of concept, that the gold is here in Nigeria, we can mine it but government cannot get involved in that business, so we are saying to individuals to come into mining. The gold is here, you process it, you sell it and make money”, he stated.
He added that with the three licensed refineries in the country, situated in Abuja, Ogun and Kano States, coming up so that we will be able to refine our own gold, Nigeria needs to start refining her gold locally and the Ministry is working on that.”
However, the Minister maintained that artisanal miners should not be criminalized nor considered illegal, adding that illegality was rather being perpetrated foreigners who go through the back door to ride on the back of artisanal miners.
“Nigerians who engage in mining at artisanal level are not considered illegal, the illegal miners are foreigners who come into Nigeria and partake in artisanal mining, they ride on the back of artisanal miners, offer them peanuts or little incentives and exploit them’” he said.