By Palma Ileye
In concerted efforts to boost Nigeria’s economy through the Mining sector, the Solid Minerals Development Fund, SMDF and the Africa Finance Corporation, AFC, have launched a facility that will unlock financing for Nigerian mining projects.
The launch, was part of the 2023 Mining Week activities and a collaboration which entails that SMDF and AFC will co-fund organized Nigerian mining projects that meet the criteria for selection.
Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake who spoke at a tri-partite agreements signing ceremony between the SMDF, AFC and Excargo Multiphysics in Abuja, described AFC as a big pillar in the efforts of Government to erect a formidable structure for the development of the sector, underscored the importance of financing mining projects.
Alake noted that financing plays very significant role in unlocking of the country’s vast liquid and solid mineral resources.
He lamented that the discovery of oil, its exploitation and exploration in the past few decades brought about the operation of a mono cultural economic structure that led Nigeria to lead indulgent lifestyle.
Discussing the role of Stakeholders in the development of the Solid Minerals sector, he said: “Government needs the cooperation of the private sector, the Africa Finance Cooperation, the banks, the financial institutions, and every Nigerian.”
Adding that all and sundry will benefit from the policy decision and collaboration being made by administration through the SMDF-AFC collaboration.
Recalling the issues that retarded the growth of the sector, the minister said Nigeria’s indulgent lifestyle made the country free with resources and revenue accruing to oil.
He said that this made the country to shift attention away from other critical sectors of the economy, such as the solid minerals sector, agriculture, industrialization, and others adding that, “Nigeria had free money flowing from oil and embarked on a spending spree.”
Explaining the consequence, he said the country’s indulgent lifestyle and spending spree have put Nigeria in the dire economic situation in which we find ourselves today.
While validating the crucial importance of the SMDF – AFC collaboration, the Minister noted that the current administration has shifted attention to solid minerals.
According to Alake, the first critical reason for the shift in attention to solid minerals is that oil and hydrocarbons are fading off in international affairs.
In his words, “Today, there is upsurge in electric vehicles. This means that there will be less demand for oil and it is happening before our very eyes,’ he said, adding that if Nigeria does not deliberately and critically shift attention to solid minerals sector, the country risks regrets in a few years.”
He therefore assured that the administration has the onerous duty to solidify the Nigerian economic structure for the coming generations.
He explained that the second reason why Government is shifting attention from oil to the solid minerals is the effect of climate change on international politics, relations and economy, adding that nations aim to de-pollute the earth in order to avoid the consequences.
Alake expounded: “We don’t want to burn the earth, the present generation must safeguard the future for the coming generation to the extent that is possible. ‘So everybody is shifting and this is another reason why oil is going down in international economics.
“So we must also make our own minimal contribution to climate change by de-risking our environment and ensuring that global warming is reduced substantially.”
Worthy to note, the partnership aims to financially support competent investors to transform the lucrative investment opportunities offered by the country’s high grade minerals (like gold and lithium) to bankable projects, as a way of unlocking the potential of the Nigerian mining sector for wealth and jobs creation.
Also, the Minister said that Federal Government will adopt the latest technological measures in next year’s budget to curb insecurity and better secure the Solid Minerals sector.
He said that the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration, had inherited the previous administration’s efforts to inject some technology into the security apparatus which revolved around the use of drones.
Informing that he has had discussions with all the Departments responsible for budgeting and that a budgeting process was ongoing.
This he said would be concluded within a few weeks.
He said: “Even before we came on board, there have been efforts to inject some technology into this security apparatus. I can say to you that some of the things I met on the ground in terms of technological inputs revolve around the use of drones.
“Even though it’s not been started, the administrative steps have been taken. It needs to dot the Ts and across the Is. However, to advance it further and to bring in other innovations, technological innovations, you know, in the world of technology, nothing is static. It’s very dynamic.
“Now, if you purchased a technological mechanism, say in 24 hours, something else develops. So, we are grading what is on the ground, and we’re introducing new technological measures, which will be included in the 2024 budget.
“I’ve had discussions with all these departments responsible for budgeting. As we speak, the budgeting process is on, and within a few weeks, that will be concluded.”
On the implementation of the ban placed on the export of raw solid minerals, Alake said: “If you are conversant with public policy, every policy has a gestation period of implementation, from the conceptualisation to the execution and the realisation.
“So, we’re in the gestation period when the execution begins. Nobody will tell. You will know because you will feel the impact of it.
“We have been saying it must start with our announcement and the vehemence of the announcement to show the seriousness of government in pursuing that policy. I will repeat it. The era of carting away raw minerals is over in Nigeria. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen the next minute after my announcement. There are mechanisms to put in place to check.”
On his part, President of the Africa Finance Corporation, AFC, Samaila Zubairu Samaila expressed optimism that current challenges of high inflation and poor value for the Naira, coupled with the high unemployment in the country were challenges that can be tackled by the ongoing unlocking of the country’s solid minerals sector.
Samaila pointed out that unlocking the Mining sector alongside other industrial sectors of the economy will make Nigeria a trillion Dollar economy.
He thanked the Solid Minerals Development Fund, the Bank of Industry, Nigerian Export Import Bank and other bankers and mining industry stakeholders with whom its hopes to unlock the potential of the sector through the SMDF-AFC joint financing of mining projects.
He commended the Minister, Dr. Dele Alake for ‘various important developments that have recently been made in the sector, particularly in the area of geological mapping, data collection and facilitating development partnership between the Federal and State governments.
He also commended the Minister for creating a framework that will allow mining activities to proceed unhindered in the country.
The AFC President also acknowledged the commitment of the Executive Secretary of the Solid Minerals Development Fund, Hajia Fatimah Umaru Shinkafi, to ensuring that needed funds were made available to the sector, saying that her tireless commitment to attract funds for the development of the sector is a key issue that has earned for the sector the very pivotal moment of the signing of tripartite agreements’ between the parties.
“President Tinubu says he wants to create fifty million jobs for the country. Nigeria is a trillion Dollar economy if the solid minerals sector is developed. If government focuses on export earnings through increased value addition to agricultural products, the goal can be achieved,” he said.
Stressing the need for Nigeria to sustain current efforts to vitalize the solid mineral sector, the President of the Corporation, stated that, “the intersection of climate change, shift and disruption in supply chains exacerbated by geopolitical decoupling and the current tensions among world powers, the need for food and energy security, and the need for consistent energy transition, especially that Arica holds the mineral reserves needed for the transition to fossil fuel, makes it compelling for Nigeria to develop its own solid mineral sector.”
Samaila expressed confidence that Nigeria was significantly blessed with Solid Minerals reserves saying that every State has at least three, some States have as mush as twelve deposits of different solid minerals. Nigeria’s minerals have higher grades than those from other jurisdictions.
Also saying that other parts of the world have 2 grams per ton of gold purity, the minimum was 5 grams per ton of Nigerian gold while some regions of the country boast of 16 grams per ton, adding that Nigeria is so blessed.
He made the point that while other jurisdictions of the world have 0.1 to 0.7% of lithium concentration, the lithium ore from Nasarwa State, Nigeria has over 10% lithium concentration.
According to the AFC President the essence of the collaboration and partnering with the SMDF was because the AFC aims to focus on transforming the opportunities into bankable projects.
He said such significant high purity implies lower cost of production, more profit for businesses as well as more royalties to government.
These he said were factors that call for more seriousness and commitment to harassing the solid mineral potentials of Nigeria.
He pointed out that it was important to facilitate the transition of ASM miners through various stages of growth, noting that they should be supported to become junior miners, and thereafter industrial miners.
Samaila said it was also important to give needed support to illegal miners so that they develop to become mainstream miners.
He expressed concern that ASM miners were unaware of the huge losses they cause themselves and their country by engaging in illegal mining noting that, “If they know the volume of destruction they are causing, they would not do what they are doing.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, Solid Minerals Development Fund, SMDF, Hajiya Fatimah Umaru Shinkafi while highlight the significance of the SMDF-AFC collaboration that gave rise to the signing of tri-partite agreements said that Mining occurs in phases, and you cannot proceed to the final stage where the most capital was required without completing developmental studies.
Shinkafi added that the collaboration was an effort aimed at supporting investors to complete the developmental studies that will take miners to the finish lines.
She expressed concern that most projects were abandoned because investors could not finish the developmental studies, adding that the initiative supports the critical strategic pillars of the transformation Agenda of the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake.
The SMDF boss also said that the collaboration has room for joint ventures with multinationals.
She expressed optimism that the current stride achieved by the SMDF was a tip of the iceberg, and assured that more wins for the sector were underway.
She said that the Government realised that sampling was a big challenge in the country which is the reason for the move therefore, Federal Government has began the plans to set-up photon activation analysis state-of-art laboratory in the country.
The Executive Secretary said: “We do have plans for an integrated state of the art laboratory with photon analysis which is a non-destructive process. We’re in talks with them. That’s why they’re here for the mining week, we haven’t finalised. We’ve been in the sector and we appreciate what the needs are.
“So Peter has flown in from Canada, and they are experts, they are accredited which is very important for a lab, they are experts at photon analysis, which is the latest technology for non-destructive sampling and testing of samples. We have a lab like this in Ghana, at the moment and I think it’s the only one in West Africa or in Africa even at the moment. So this is the future of technology coming in, in addition to what is basic. We realised that sampling is a big challenge. We have not concluded but that’s why he’s here and we’re talking.”
On the aspect of financing of the sector, Shinkafi added, “Over 90 per cent of Nigeria remains under explored with significant potential to discover new and increase the existing deposits that we found. So increased exploration activity is crucial to realising the benefits of the country’s geological endowment and supporting a pipeline of new projects to the market.
“This investment in exploration is why the Africa Finance Corporation, AFC and the Solid minerals Development Fund of Nigeria, SMDF, have partnered with Excalibur multi-physics to the ministers exploration big data strategy by developing a data discovery portal and a pre competitive exploration programme.
“The AFC and SMDF will support the globally recognised expertise within the Nigerian Geological Survey agency to improve our understanding of Nigerian mineral resources, the potential and ensuring a solid pipeline for future projects so Nigeria accounts for only 0.02 per cent of the global mining exploration budget. The Minister is committed to changing the story with our big data strategy.
“The projects we have identified today will unlock more than 500,000 ounces of gold reserves which may attract more than $500 million in new mining investment. So our intervention to unlock developmental finance for Nigerian mining projects aligns with the renewed hope vision of $1 trillion GDP and 7 per cent economic growth. We are focused on implementing the transformation again agenda to deliver on the renewed hope vision.”
The Government through the Solid Minerals Development Fund of Nigeria, SMDF, is in talks with a Canadian company to set up the lab in the country.
The Laboratory which can only be found in Ghana in the whole of the continent is the latest technology for the analysis of non-destructive materials characterization technique that exploits high-energy photons to retrieve the elemental composition of a large variety of samples.