Samuel Bello, Abuja
Sequel to this current administration’s diversification drive to advance the development and use of different mineral commodities, the Federal Government has flagged-off the first integrated exploration project under the Natural Resources Fund as an enabler of the programme.
Speaking during the flag-off ceremony, on Thursday, in Abuja, Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bwari, noted that the project has been long overdue and its success will be critical in determining how far government can go in its efforts to reposition the sector.
Bwari said his ministry intends to contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by industrialising minerals for local consumption and import substitution, using metallic minerals for generating foreign exchange and energy minerals for power generation.
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According to him, “the inadequate geoscience data has contributed immensely to the decline in the mining sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP to a paltry 0.35 percent as compared to oil which contributes about 10 percent and 85 percent of foreign exchange earnings. This is an unhealthy situation that makes our country’s economy particularly vulnerable.
“We realised that the diverse mineral commodities Nigeria is blessed with can only serve their purposes if they are properly and comprehensively characterised to enable stakeholders make investment decisions.
The minister urged the National Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), which will be supervising the project on behalf of the ministry to strictly adhere to the job specifications and contractual agreements on a duration of 12 months and also ensure adequate employment of local expertise.
In his address, NGSA Director-General, Alex Nwegbu, said enough care has been taken to embed competent persons as integral part of the exercise to ensure international best practices. He added that approximately 45 Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) entries were received, out of which 12 were works and 9 consulting entities were prequalified for technical and financial bids.
He said: “Some strategic mineral commodities were targeted based on their catalyzing effect on industries. They include gold, pegmatite hosted minerals (cassiterite, tantalite, niobium, lithium), base metals, barytes, iron ore that cut across the different geological terrains, including the basement complex schist belt, the central areas cutting across both the basement and sedimentary as well as the Benue through among other areas.
Project Contractor, Riaan Westhuizen, assured that assiduous work would be done with latest techniques to bring the project to an excellent end, in line with international best practices. He maintained that the project would be a veritable tool to attract anxious investors to the mineral sector, which would also be in line with the agenda of the present government.