The solid minerals ministry is the backbone of South Africa’s economy as mining activities across the country accounted for about 18 percent of GDP (8.6% direct and 10% indirect and induced), job creation with 500 000 direct and 500 000 indirect jobs) and foreign exchange earnings contributing more than 50 percent of all foreign exchange earnings in South Africa.
It’s however saddened that the mining of minerals such as tin, columbite, bitumen, coal, salt, iron ore and others only contributed 0.3 percent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Some experts have attributed this poor performance of solid minerals sector to depend on oil resources by the government. The domestic mining industry is underdeveloped, leading to Nigeria having to import minerals that it could produce domestically.
Recently, the World Bank Senior Mining Specialist and Extractives Unit Head, Dr Francisco Igualada said Nigeria is earning less than Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso from mining activities due to country’s huge emphasis on oil and gas. This disproportionate focus on oil and gas has resulted in the solid minerals sector being neglected, despite its potential to be a significant enabler for manufacturing, services and other sectors.
Furthermore, the Mining regulation is handled by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, which oversees the management of all mineral resources according to Federal Minerals and Mining Act of 1999. Historically, Nigeria’s mining industry was monopolized by state-owned public corporations and this led to a decline in productivity in almost all mineral industries.
Incidentally, the oil boom that led to neglect of mining sector is gradually whining down with fall in global oil price. Hence, the need to harness the potential of Nigeria’s solid minerals towards the diversification the economic. The Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi in chat with journalists said local miners in the ancient town made his gold necklace and shoes from raw gold extracted in the town.
Despite, the zeal of some local miners and experts to development the mining sector in the country, the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development headed by Dr. Kayode Fayemi has been doing much of paperwork, rather than implementing policies that would bring meaningful development to the sector.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi in 2016 said the target is for the solid minerals sector to contribute 10 per cent of the gross domestic product by 2020.
Fayemi stated that this aspiration informed the present administration’s efforts to reposition the solid minerals sector to diversify the country’s economy and create jobs through the sector.
His words: “We strongly believe that the only way minerals development can be sustainable is through economic linkages, we shall promote the development of industrial minerals and encourage downstream linkages leading to the processing of these minerals for our local industries.
“It is expected that huge foreign exchange will be conserved through import substitution; jobs will be created; technological capacity will improve, and there shall be increase in resource. We shall concentrate on developing minerals that are critical feedstock in oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure.”
The Federal Government has also signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with China on geosciences (a critical but lacking factor in Nigeria’s solid minerals sector) co-operation during the Nigeria-China Mining Investment Roadshow.
Although, the words of former governor of Ekiti state are promising but there is concrete achievement or result to show in the ministry more than 18months in office. Miners nationwide are still waiting for government intervention to make them more productive in the sector.
Similarly, the ministry in 2016 budgeted about N800million for website update which generated a lot questions, as Nigerians queried how spending such amount on website would bring positive turn around to mining activities in the country.
The President, Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA) Dr. Abdul Bello has lamented that the sector had been largely neglected in the wake of the oil boom.
Dr. Bello urged federal government to address the lack of synergy between state Ministries of Mines and the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel and to create a relationship between mining host communities and the ministry.
Some experts have canvassed the removal of mining from the Federal exclusive list to allow states regulate mining activities in their domain.
They also asked that strict adherence to laws guiding environmental pollution and degradation in mining communities should be instituted while ensuring that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is carried out before mining licenses are given to artisanal miners.