Discoveries could spur bolder Nigerian mining industry plans – Minister

Nigeria’s ambitious plans to expand its non-fuel minerals sector are becoming more deeply meshed with the country’s strategic industry development agenda, minister of state Abubakar Bawa Bwari has told Mining Journal, as the Muhammadu Buhari government tries to build real longterm prosperity and jobs for the massive youth element of a population that could be the world’s fourth largest by 2050.

Bawa Bwari said in an interview on the sidelines of the recent Africa Downunder conference in Perth, Western Australia, increased recognition of Nigeria’s latent mineral endowment – inside and outside the country – and fresh exploration successes, continued to open up wider industry development possibilities.

The potentially highly significant Titan nickel find by Australia’s Comet Minerals, for example, was “to us … a pleasant surprise”, the minister of state for solid minerals said, that fed hopes for development of local stainless steel production to support wider economic change.

Bawa Bwari acknowledges critical infrastructure deficiencies – “we are focusing on the need to build roads, rail, power lines” – and also a need to build operating and administrative capacity in the form of properly educated and trained people. Hence Nigeria was keen to work more closely with countries such as Australia and Canada on mining skills and knowledge transfer.

“These are minerals we believe can lead to the increase in GDP,” Bawa Bwari said. “We also want to substitute some of the things we are importing … critically steel, but also fertiliser for agriculture, lithium and rare earths. Barite is another mineral used in drilling in the oil and gas industry. Before now we used to import a lot of barite into our country and we just discovered we have one of the best barite deposits around,” he added.

“We want coal to [help] address the issue of competitive electricity. So these are all strategic minerals that we want to use to address some of the things we import, and build capacity. Right now [the industry is] operating mainly at artisanal and small-scale level. Even at that level we see significant discoveries such as the gold found in Bauchi (state). But we want to bring in the big players,” he said.

Source: Ministry of Mines and Steel

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