Making The Mining Sector More Business Friendly For Investors

Olamilekan Adegbite’s appointment as the minister of Mines and Steel Development initially came as a surprise to many in the sector due to his career background as an architect with 35 years of experience in practice. Furthermore, he had just stepped down from being the commissioner for works and housing in Ogun state, in which the consensus was that he did a very good job.  His tenure as a commissioner was marked by rapid infrastructure development in roads, bridges and public market. Indeed, not a few had expected him to be given a similar portfolio in the federal cabinet. Hence it came as a shock to many when he was appointed to steer the affairs of Mine and steel Development, a sector in which he was practically a novice. But Adegbite in the last one year has proved to be round peg in a round hole as he has worked tirelessly to turn the sector around. Indeed, many stakeholders in the sector attest to the fact that the minister has made the sector more business friendly for investors to do business.

Kabiru Kankara, the President of Miners Association of Nigeria is one major stockholder who views the appointment of the minister has been good to the sector. He observes that the minister had made it easy for miners to operate in the sector. He equally noted that the minister had made it easier for miners to get licenses. The president of MAN also praised the minister for giving all stakeholders in the sector access to him. ‘the minister has indeed made the sector more business friendly through the policies he has been pursuing. It is now easier to get mining licenses and the minister has made himself available to stakeholders in the sector.’

Janet Adeyemi, President of Women in Mining, shares similar view point with Kankara.  Adeyemi is of the opinion that the minister has transformed the sector, reinvigorating the confidence of investors in mining. She observes that Adegbite has been pursuing policies that have been business friendly, adding that the minister’s approach in carrying all stakeholder along has been good for the sector. ‘It’s obvious that the minister had a purpose and vision for the sector. Coming from a totally different sector and career he has been able to catch up fast due to his willingness to learn. He his someone that carries all the stakeholder along in his policies and he has made the sector business friendly.’

Adeyemi added that the minister had been supportive of women in the sector. ‘He is the first minister that has supported us in terms office accommodation. He is gender sensitive, which is good for development as no nation can advance if it leaves being its woman who usually constitute about 50 per cent of the population. He is a minister that listens that genuinely cares about stakeholders in the sector.’

She further added that the minister had notched some key milestones. ‘The minister believes strongly in the policy of the presidency. It is under him that we produced our first goal bar.’

In the same vein, Director-General, Mining Cadastre Office, Engr Obadiah Nkom, said that the

Honorable Minister without doubt has made the sector more business friendly. “There are so many incentives that have been put in place to attract investors into the sector. One of them is royalty waivers for gold exploiters to encourage compliance with royalty payment. The minister has a vision to make Nigeria a gold producing hub in West Africa hence he has made it easier for stakeholders in the sector to apply for mining licenses. We have streamlined our operation at the mining cadre office making it easier for investors s to apply for mining licenses online. There are also waivers for those who want to bring in equipment into the mining sector. Indeed, the sector has become more business friendly under the tenure of the minister. One of the thing he has also done is to include private sector stakeholders in policy making frameworks”.

Director General of NSRMEA  National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency,  Engr. Umar Albarka Hassan, responded that the Honourable Minister’s one year performance is unprecedented because of the number of activities carried out and the successes recorded during the past one year. “Amongst these activities include the works on generation of reliable geosciences data long considered a big stumbling block to attracting financially and competent mining investors into the Nigerian Mining Sector. Specifically, the ongoing NIMEP Exploration projects on Gold, Iron Ore, Lead-Zinc ores, Barite and Speciality metals associated with pegmatites have generated so much interest amongst international mining investors arising from presentations made at international mining fora. Reports of these works are being awaited with keen interest. This is in addition to the exploration works on bauxite, silica sand, manganese and chromite being carried out by the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency, Kaduna towards sourcing of necessary raw materials for Ajaokuta Steel plant in particular and other local steel plants. Other activities carried out include facilitation of sustainable mine development and operations culminating into the development of the first large scale gold mine in Osun State by Thor Exploration as well as the commencement of formal ASM gold purchase schemes and refining through PAGMI and other private initiatives driven by Dukia Gold and Kian Smith for harnessing local gold production, refining and sale of refined gold bars to CBN towards building its gold reserve. This action has facilitate formal gold trading leading to improvement in royalty collection from gold dealers as well as stopping the exploitation of miners by gold trading syndicates”.

Stressing what the Minister has done to improve the steel sector, Hassan said that things done to improve the fortunes of the steel sector include efforts being put towards completing Ajaokuta Steel Plant through the collaboration of the Nigerian and Russian Governments; the revision of the Metallurgical Bill aimed at producing an acceptable bill that would have a safe sail through FEC and the National Assembly resulting in providing the metal and steel sub-sector with the missing legal and regulatory framework needed to create a sustainable working environment. “And the continued support for local sourcing of steel raw materials needed to guarantee local steel production in view of the logistics challenges associated with the importation of steel raw material as well as huge foreign exchange required to import such products including loss of jobs to foreign countries from where these raw materials would be imported from”.

Speaking on the expected benefits that would accrue to the nation when Ajaokuta comes on stream, he said that when Ajaokuta Steel Company comes on stream include the creation of about 600,000 direct and indirect jobs in addition to the conservation of foreign exchange that would have been used to import steel products which Ajaokuta Steel Plant would now produce. “As a pointer, Nigeria imported about $730million worth of steel products in 2018. With Ajaokuta coming on stream and producing the imported products, this sum of foreign exchange would be saved in addition to jobs and wealth that would be created from activities associated with the production of needed steel products starting from the mines, steel plant, rolling mills that would use Ajaokuta Steel Plant Products as input, iron and steel products’ fabricators, food vendors, service providers amongst others. The nation would also be able to produce various categories of steel products needed to bring about fabrication of essential machineries and spare parts that can operate satisfactorily under normal operating conditions which has continued to be a challenge”.

On investment opportunities in the Nigerian mining sector, the minister was quoted that Nigeria has indeed made appreciable headway in evolving its mining industry.

The country has taken notable steps to de-risk the sector by improving its  geo-scientific data base through NIMEP  and developing a  coherent downstream mineral policy, thus enhancing its perception as a world-class mining destination.

With our favourable geological formations which consist principally of three major lithological components – the Basement Complex, Younger Granites, and Sedimentary Basins – Nigeria is best suited today for big players in the global mining sector.

“We are endowed with 44 different mineral types that occur in commercial quantities in more than 500 locations across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory of the country. Seven of these minerals have been tagged as strategic for immediate development. These are Coal, Iron Ore, Bitumen, Gold, Limestone, Lead/ Zinc and Barite. The designation of these minerals as strategic stems from their potential to make significant contributions to Nigeria’s economic development. These strategic mineral assets are available across the federation as proven reserves.  We are also adopting a forward-thinking approach, by developing the strategic minerals of the future. These include minor metals such as titanium and cobalt, which are vital to futuristic industries such as telecoms and electric vehicle manufacturing. As such, we are happy to welcome investors with interest in the aforementioned”.

On the reform that provided platform for friendly investment opportunities rising above the challenges of the past, the current mandate of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development under the stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari is to scale-up the capacities of this sector by transforming it into a strategic catalyst for domestic growth, in terms of job creation and increased revenue, while achieving a high optimal level of global relevance.

Speaking on the growth strategy/reforms implemented to unlock our full potential, the minister was quoted that the structural reforms we have embarked upon in the sector  is predicated on the principle that government serves as a business friendly regulator, providing the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Under this concept, we view the private sector as the catalyst of growth that will drive the sector forward.

“It is indeed a vision anchored on the foundation of eight key legislative and institutional reforms, of which the expected cumulative effect is to engender a competitive legal and regulatory framework for the sector. Underlining the vision itself is a strict promotion of transparency regime that empowers patrons to build trust and ensure accountability”. For example, the “first-come-first-serve” and non-discretionary granting of mineral titles policy of the Mining Cadastral Office, now ensures the issuance of 6 types of licenses and permits to cover all activities from exploration to mineral production as well as granting of licenses between 30 – 45 days using transparent rules and regulations.

The recent establishment of the Investment Promotion and Mineral Trade Department is indicative of our zeal and preparedness to welcome global investment partners. We will strengthen the Investment Promotion and Mineral Trade Department to provide all the necessary assistance investors will demand. I urge you to take advantage of the incredible incentives put in place to support all visionary investors in the sector.

Vanguard

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