Exclusive interview with Tim Wither, CEO of Symbol Mining, bronze sponsors at the upcoming Nigeria Mining Week in Abuja in October.
"We are building a reputable, safe and trusted mining company in Nigeria, and hope to raise awareness of Nigeria’s potential as a mineral resource producer.”
Let’s start with some background on Symbol Mining and your work in the mining sector?
Symbol Mining is an Australian publicly listed company (ASX:SL1) which recently commenced mining at the high-grade zinc and lead Imperial Joint Venture project in the Bauchi State. Symbol has been working in Nigeria since 2012, and brings a wealth of international technical, marketing and financial expertise for the commercialisation of mining and exploration projects in Nigeria.
Symbol is building a reputable, safe and trusted mining company in Nigeria, and hopes to raise awareness of Nigeria’s potential as a mineral resource producer.
Any projects that you are involved in in Nigeria that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
Symbol has two local Joint Venture projects, Tawny in Nasarawa State and Imperial in Bauchi State, with total tenements spanning over 500km2. In the last six years Symbol has completed over 12,000m of exploration drilling and in May 2018, released a maiden JORC compliant Resource of 132,700t at 18.3% Zn and 2.1%Pb for the Macy Deposit located within the Imperial project.
Our maiden resource demonstrated a mineralisation zone of high-grade zinc and lead. The subsequent completion of the Macy Deposit scoping study confirmed the economic viability for high-grade direct shipment ore (“DSO”) to both Chinese and European smelters. Symbol’s marketing plan is to develop a high-quality product brand, selling directly to smelters through established offtake partnerships.
Symbol’s strategy is to generate early cashflow from open pit mining at the Macy Deposit, which will facilitate further exploration activities at Imperial and Tawny, and potentially expand our resource base to grow the Company.
Central to our future success, is the support of the local community and development of a skilled workforce. Our core values include respect and acceptance from the local communities in which we operate, and this is only achieved by open and honest conversations. At Macy we have regular monthly meetings, shared over a meal, to communicate information on the project and listen to any challenges faced by the community. We are also focused on building a skilled local workforce and creating a framework for them to develop and learn a range of skills in a controlled and supportive environment. Ideally, we would like to be the employer of choice for the mining industry in Nigeria.
What in your view are the challenges to taking the mining sector in Nigeria to the next level?
Having commenced mining in June 2018, we have received tremendous support from our Nigerian partners and Government bodies, particularly from the Mining Cadastral Office, Nigeria Geological Society and our mining contractors PW Nigeria.
Due to the mining industry being in its infancy, a lot of our technical skills are sourced from outside the country, particularly experienced Mining Engineers and Exploration Geologists. Our vision is to grow these capabilities in-house by training and educating people from the local community. This will support our aggressive exploration and growth strategies and help expand the mining industry in Nigeria.
As an exporter, a significant challenge Symbol faces is delays through current port facilities. Exporting direct shipment ore is Symbol’s sole source of revenue, so the speed in which product can pass through the port has a critical impact to our economic viability and our ability to develop projects. We can see improvements in the near future, with Lekki Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and other infrastructure upgrades within the Lagos port, so we are optimistic that these improvements will have a great impact in developing the resource industry.
What is your vision for the mining sector in Nigeria?
Central to our growth strategy is our people. Over the next five years we will spend a considerable amount of effort in training and up skilling our team, so they can then manage and grow our future projects. This will in turn benefit the mining community.
Symbol wants to demonstrate Nigeria’s potential as a mineral resource producer. Symbol’s, and our Joint Venture partners’, success will help grow the awareness of Nigeria mining sector and will also attract additional supporting industries.
I personally, want to see local communities’ benefit from the growth of the mining industry. One of the strongest principles within the Nigerian Mining Code is the mandatory Community Development Agreement (CDA), something which other more established mining jurisdictions should include.
Mining companies should never replace government responsibilities but should support where possible and the CDA is a great measure on a company’s commitment.
You are a new sponsor at Nigeria Mining Week. How important is this event to showcase the country’s mining potential?
Nigeria Mining Week is a great forum to interact with all stakeholders and highlight successes and challenges faced by the operators. The event also highlights the vast opportunities within Nigeria for other explorers and support services, such as OEM and analytical laboratories.
What will be your message at the event?
Symbol hopes to showcase the benefits of developing and managing a resource correctly, maximising the value of the resource, and ensuring it can be done in an ethical and environmentally respectful manner, which benefits all stakeholders for the long term.
Anything you would like to add?
We are very pleased to participate in Nigeria Mining Week and look forward to presenting Symbol’s achievements over the last eight months. We welcome any opportunity to help grow the mining industry in Nigeria.
The Macy Deposit located within Symbol Mining's Imperial project, situated in Bauchi State, Nigeria