By Gabriel Ewepu, ABUJA

HE Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, Tuesday, expressed optimism that Belgum’s proposed collaboration with Nigeria will galvanize solid minerals production.

Adegbite stated this while assuring a Belgian delegation led by the Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria, Daniel Bertrand, at his office in Abuja, where he mentioned that the  investment environment created by the Buhari-led administration for investors along various mining value, including mining-related clusters in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria is to boost productivity of artisanal and small scale miners, generate wealth and create employment opportunities for the youths.

According to him (Adegbite) as quoted in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Ayodeji Adeyemi, the programme is financed by the Federal Government under the COVID 19 Stimulus Programme; setting up of a Gold Souk (market) in Kano to encourage import substitution, Gemstone Marketing and Processing Center in Ibadan, Gold Processing Center in Mopa-Muro in Kogi State, Barite Processing Center in Ogoja, Kaoline Processing Facility in Bauchi and the Lead Zinc Processing Center in Abakaliki.

He said: “The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is open to collaborating with Belgium to further develop the mining sector.

“The Ministry is making the sector more vibrant by fulfilling its mandate to diversify the economy away from oil, to create jobs and to raise the revenue profile of the government.”

Speaking extensively, the Minister explained to the Belgian envoy about the effort and achievements recorded by his Ministry as enabled by President Muhammadu Buhari, whereby the mining sector is put on the driver’s seat of the economy.

He also mentioned that local barite production had commenced, and it meets the American Petroleum Institute, API, standard, which would save Nigeria huge tonnes of Dollars leaving the country, because millions of Dollars is being spent on Barite importation.

Meanwhile, he (Adegbite) also made it known that Nigeria will soon export Barite to some African countries.

“Last year we launched the Nigerian barite to show that we can now produce barite that meets the API standard in our country.

“This will save us millions of dollars spent on importing barite every year, which would also create jobs and lead to skills specialization in some specific fields.

“We are also looking at the possibilities of eventually exporting barite to other African countries which would earn our country revenue”, he said.

While explaining the huge Gold endowment in Nigeria, the pointed that his Ministry is currently creating via Gold ecosystem in the mining sector, opening up areas for foreign investors to take up stakes in the Gold subsector.

According to him, a Canadian company, Thor Exploration, had started producing Gold in commercial quantities through the Segilola Gold Project in Osun State.

“Nigeria has a lot of Gold and we are developing the sector to attract investment into it. Nigeria is not just about oil and gas.

“We are richly endowed with diverse mineral assets in varying mixes and proven reserves. As we pursue our growth innovations through continued exploration, more mineral types and finds are being discovered.

“We can confirm that every zone in Nigeria has some minerals to bring to the national table of resource riches. As of today about 44 minerals have been identified”, he added.

On incentives and ease of doing business in the sector, he said, “Some of the incentives we have instituted to make the sector more attractive to investors include Customs and import duties waiver for plant, machinery and equipment imported for mining operations.

“Tax holidays of between three to five years as applicable. Free transferability of funds and permission to retain and use earned foreign exchange. Capital allowances of up to 95 per cent of qualifying capital expenditure. Deductibility of Environmental Costs (money meant for environmental remediation will be tax free), and 100 per cent ownership of mineral properties.”

Earlier, the Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria, Daniel Bertrand, expressed his country’s interest in the sector.

“I am just looking to see if there is any possibility of cooperation between both countries as your sector is concerned”, he said.

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