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Nigeria’s mining sector looking up

Exclusive interview with Martin O’Boyle, director of PW Nigeria Limited & Meridian Drilling, a returning silver sponsor at the upcoming Nigeria Mining Week in Abuja in October.

“PW Nigeria has acquired a number of licences, the majority of which are in Niger state, and are currently carrying out a detailed exploration programme”

Let’s start with some background on PW Nigeria and your work in the mining sector?
PW Nigeria Ltd (PWN) is a Mining and Civil Engineering Contractor and has operated in Nigeria for over 45 years. During this period PWN has been primarily known for large scale construction projects and less so for mining as the industry was largely undeveloped and underfunded.

However, PW have been involved in large scale mining projects throughout Africa and we have executed major mining contracts in Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, many of which I have been personally involved with.

We have now identified that Nigeria’s drive to generate non-petroleum based Internally Generated Revenue through the development of Base Metal mining is opening a huge potential market and we believe that, with our vast experience in both Nigeria and the mining industry, that we are ideally placed to help develop this market.

Any projects that you are involved in in Nigeria that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
We are currently mining lead and zinc for the AXA listed Australian company Symbol Base Metals Ltd at their Macy Base Metal project in Bauchi State. This project is fully mobilized and ore extraction has commenced.

We have a very positive working relationship with Symbol and have been in discussions for several years about this project so it was great to be involved in what is the first registered mechanized mining operation in years in Nigeria. We also plan to become long-term partners with Symbol as they strive to develop a basket of new mining projects in the country.

PW Nigeria crew at Macy Mine Deposit
Aerial view of Symbol Mining’s Macy project, located in the Benue Trough in Nigeria.

We have also signed a memorandum of understanding with another AXA listed company, Kogi Iron, who have a world class iron ore deposit in Kogi State. We have been assisting with logistics, contractual issues, infrastructure works and ore extraction for testing in South Africa. This project is expected to proceed 4th quarter 2018 or early 2019 once funding has been secured. We have also prepared.

We have partnered with Meridian Drilling UK and formed an exploration drilling company based in Nigeria, Meridian Drilling and Exploration Services, and have successfully completed several projects. We now have three rigs in operation and plan to bring in another 2 this year due to the increased workload.

We have acquired a number of licences the majority of which are in Niger state and are currently carrying out a detailed exploration programme led by our senior geologist, Mr. Kieran Harrington, and his team. At Indaba last year we were able to get an Irish/Canadian investor to partner with us on some of these prospects and we look forward to developing each of the properties.

Apart from this we have been in discussions with various state governments and private companies about how we can partner to develop mining projects throughout Nigeria.

What in your view are the challenges to taking the mining sector in Nigeria to the next level?
There is an unwillingness from a lot of stakeholders to carry out detailed exploration and planning, preferring to rush into mining the target.

Everyone is also aware that there is currently a lot of insecurity in Nigeria which scares off potential investors. There are lots of challenges but nothing that I think can’t be overcome.

And the opportunities?
I believe there are huge untapped resources in Nigeria and the potential is great. We are very excited about the potential of some of the sites we have looked at. I have been very impressed by the Thor story and I really hope is goes well for them as this will be the showcase Nigeria needs to kick start mining in a big way.

What is your vision for the mining sector in Nigeria?
Having worked in Ghana and other countries that have had huge success with mining I hope one day that Nigeria can join these countries in becoming a top mining destination for the majors.

You are a returning sponsor at Nigeria Mining Week. How important is this even to showcase the country’s mining potential?
It’s a great opportunity to meet the various stakeholders and learn what’s going on in the sector and to promote PW Nigeria as a key stakeholder in the mining sector in Nigeria.

What was your experience like at the event last year?
I think last year was much better than previous years and whilst there where a few foreign companies that visited it would be great to see more, especially some major mining companies.

What will be your message at the event this year?
There is a successful and proven mining company based in Nigeria and we are willing to help promote mining opportunities in Nigeria with all the stakeholders. We hope to be part of the success story that will be mining in Nigeria.

More photographs of the Symbol Macy project:

All photographs provided by PW Nigeria.