Minerals: Alake seeks Senate’s support for exploration funding in Nigeria

Friday Ajagunna
Friday Ajagunna
Dele Alake at the Senate Committee hearing

The Minister for Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake, has solicited the support of the Nigerian Senate for increased funding for the Ministry to enhance its capacity to carry out detailed exploration of the country’s vast mineral deposits.

The Minister stated this while speaking at the opening session of an investigative hearing on “the need to comprehensively review the input and output values of the Nigeria Mining Industry in the light of its central role to economic diversification, foreign exchange earnings, and social inclusion” at the National Assembly (NASS) Complex, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Abuja, FCT.

Segun Tomori, Special Assistant to the Minister on Media, disclosed in a statement Tuesday, that Dr. Alake identified the twin issues of poor funding for exploration and insecurity as the main challenges hampering the development of the mining sector while limiting its role as the pivot of diversification of the economy.

Alake also bemoaned the country’s low investment in mining exploration, as $2.5 million was invested last year, citing figures from Standard & Poor’s report.

Standard & Poor, a global rating agency, had ranked Nigeria’s exploration budget 12th in Africa and placed Ivory Coast in the top position with $147 million.

He stated: “When we compare the exploration budgets of other African countries with ours, it is depressing.

“According to Standard & Poor, as of 2023, Nigeria’s investment in exploration was $2.5 million, against $147 million for Ivory Coast and $133 million for Congo. In our determination to compete, we had proposed a budget of N70 billion to invest in exploration that would cover the entire Nigerian landscape.

“Going by the budget for 2024, our capacity to move at our desired speed may be undermined. We need your support to fund exploration and equip our personnel to regulate the sector.”

Highlighting efforts to combat illegal mining, the Minister informed the Senators about the recently unveiled 2,220-man strong Mining Marshals, with 60 operatives deployed in each state of the federation and the FCT.

There are at least four categories of illegal miners: unlicensed miners; licensed miners mining outside their Cadastral Units; licensed miners mining minerals different from what they are authorised to mine; and miners mining with licenses exclusively restricted to Nigerians. The country loses over $9bn to illegal mining annually, the minister said.

Aside from the Mining Marshals representing the kinetic response to combat illegal mining, Dr. Alake revealed on-going advocacy through Artisanal and Small Miners (ASM) extension officers and the launch of a campaign on radio spanning at least 113 radio stations across the country that will not only discourage the menace but also urge artisanal miners to form cooperatives and enjoy the benefits of legalisation.

At the last count, 152 cooperatives have already been formed across the country, in line with the Minister’s 7-point Agenda.

Update on implementing value addition policy in mining sector, by Alake

In line with the new value addition policy of the Federal Government, Dr. Alake hinted at the imminent establishment of six more processing centres across the geo-political zones, stressing that efforts to effectively equip the mining marshal and other reforms of the ministry will require legislative backing for necessary statutes and improved funding.

The statement further noted that while declaring the investigative hearing open, Senate President Godswill Akpabio lauded the Minister for personally attending the public hearing, noting that his presence indicated the commitment of the presidency to making solid minerals the fulcrum of diversification of the economy.

Sen. Akpabio advocated concerted efforts by the Executive and Legislature to ensure resources frittered away through illegal mining and other nefarious activities are curtailed.

Senator Ekong Sampson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals Development, stated in his remarks that the three-day investigative hearing is hinged on unravelling challenges hampering the development of the mining sector despite the vast mineral deposits across the country.

The Chairman of the Committee said: “We want to look at the challenges and see what we can do, together with the executive, to address these bottlenecks and ensure that solid minerals contribute substantially to our economy.

“Nigeria is blessed with vast mineral deposits. The time is now to harness this God-given resources for the benefit of all Nigerians.”

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