NIGERIA: A shift in mindset required

If I were to ask you which countries come to mind in the West African region, it is likely that Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Mali will feature at the top of your list. You might think Liberia, Guinea or even Sierra Leone.

Why? These are the ‘hot spot’ mining countries in the region, known for their abundance of gold and also home to an extensive host of mining juniors and majors.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 9, 2020
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But would you include Nigeria? My guess is likely not. Generally speaking, the country’s investment perception is poor and very little is known about its infant mining industry. Why is that? Is it because the country’s economy is built on its oil and gas sector? Is it because Nigeria is not recognised for its untapped mineralisation wealth or is it possibly because corruption seems to be a word closely associated with this particular destination?

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Over the last two months, I have found myself fully immersed in the country, largely thanks to our Nigeria Mining Week event which thanks to COVID-19 has taken a digital direction this year – giving me the opportunity to get involved in learning more about what the country has to offer the mining sector through a series of webinars in the build-up to a full-scale digital event in October.

Having spent much time with a variety of key players and strategic role players in the Nigerian mining sector, I’ve learnt a few things and I’d like to share these with you, briefly. Of course, if you want to know more I’d encourage you to read this edition, listen to the webinar recordings of the digital sessions that have already taken place, and register for the upcoming digital event.

My four key takeaways for Nigeria are as follows:

1. Nigeria may have an abundance of oil and gas resources in the country, but it offers the same mineralisation wealth in mining-related minerals, particularly iron ore, coal, barite, bitumen, limestone and lead/zinc, and the ever so desirable gold. These are also the seven strategic minerals the government has outlined, making them an agenda priority for development.

2. As a general statement, corruption is not a new word to Africa and Nigeria falls within the realms of this difficulty. While I haven’t been there myself, I have no doubt that challenges associated with the country do exist – they are no more or less than any other country in Africa – and when did that stop investment and project development? It hasn’t and shouldn’t in the case of Nigeria.

3. The desire to encourage local downstream/beneficiation opportunities to deliver additional growth that feeds from the core mining industry is admirable.

4. Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, Minister of Mines and Steel Development in Nigeria, is passionate, determined and driven to see the country’s mining industry grow. And, having spent some time with him, I have found him to be informed, well-spoken, technically adept and eager to take the necessary steps to encourage mining investment. He undeniably ranks in my top five best mining ministers in Africa.

I’m hoping that, within the space of the few minutes taken to read this, I’ve encouraged you to be more open to the possibility of investing in Nigeria’s infant mining sector, and to expose your company to the wealth and opportunities it has to offer.

You only have to look at the likes of Thor Explorations, Dangote and Kogi Iron to know that Nigeria should feature in your list of West African mining hot spots.