FG earmarks N15b for minerals exploration

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The Minister of Mine and Steel, Kayode Fayemi

The Federal Government is to spend N15 billion ($42 million) over the next one year to explore minerals and attract investors into mining, to reduce its dependence on oil, Solid Minerals Development Minister Kayode Fayemi has said.

“Because we are starting from a low base, we want to have a portfolio of exploration activities in place that could whet the appetite of the average investor who wants to come in,”Fayemi was quoted to have said by Reuters at the weekend in interview in Abuja.

They will be able to “drill down when they have that baseline information”, he said.

The government plans to support investments in the exploration of its priority minerals, including gold, bitumen, iron, barite, limestone, lead and zinc, Fayemi said. The government is hoping to attract as much as N60 billion of private investment into mining, he said.

Tapping resources other than oil, Nigeria’s main export, is part of the government’s economic recovery and growth plan after the country went through its worst economic slump in 25 years as oil output and prices fell. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, the sixth contributor to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) daily oil production. The contribution of solid minerals to gross domestic product is expected to increase to more than eight per cent by 2020 from less than one per cent year, according to the government.

To further encourage investors, incentives including tax holidays of as much as five years for new companies entering the market, duty free imports on mining equipment and mining licenses for 25 years have been put in place, the minister said.

Executive Secretary, Solid Minerals Development Fund, Haiha Fatima Shinkafi, said additional support for the industry is expected through a $600 million bond to be sold by the end of the year to raise more funds to provide required infrastructure and help accumulate data on minerals.

“Nigeria is one of the lowest spenders on exploration as far as mining activity is concerned. This government is determined to turn the tide on that, because we’re quite convinced of the opportunities,” Fayemi said.

Nigeria has at least 44 minerals that can be extracted in commercial quantities, according to the solid minerals ministry. Mining in the country is currently dominated by artisans, who produce gold, tin and others in small amounts.

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