Mining should be Nigeria’s new oil

The continuous fall in global oil prices to a record low of $27 as of yesterday, once again emphasizes the need for oil–dependent countries like Nigeria  to diversify. With the bulk of Nigeria’s 2016 budget set on diversifying Nigeria’s economy, perhaps this act of diversification couldn’t have come at a better time.  Nigerian states which had grown so dependent on the Federal Government for their share of the oil revenue will eventually be forced to source these funds internally, and mining could pave the way to that.

Before the discovery of petroleum, the Nigerian economy was dependent on Agriculture and Mining. Coal from Enugu’s coal mines alone were enough to power some of our railways, and also generate supply. In the past,minerals such as Coal, Tin, Columbite and Gold were mined in commercial quantities. Nigeria was also once the World’s largest exporter of Columbite. Coal especially was used for Nigeria’s railway system and for generating electricity. In 2009, the Federal Government through the past Minister of Mining and Steel Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke announced that Nigeria had commercial deposits of 37 minerals scattered around the 36 states. Kogi state alone has commercial deposits of 29 mineral resources, chief among them being Coal. Studies have also shown that Kogi state’s coal deposit can power Nigeria for 400 years, a potential panacea to Nigeria’s power problems. Though the claim could be an exaggeration, it is a testament to the richness of Coal in the state.

In 2010 Allison Madueke also promised that the Federal Government would focus on 7 minerals, namely; Coal, Gold, Bitumen, Limestone, Barite, Iron ore and Tantalite. Five years on and nothing has been done to address this. Instead Nigeria has continued to witness private Companies investing in the mining sector e.g. the Dangote cement factories.  Eventhough these factories provide jobs for people in those communities, Nigeria ought to be gaining a lot more from the export of these solid minerals. The President of Miner’s Empowerment Association of Nigeria, Sunny Ekosin last year revealed that Nigeria loses eight trillion Naira yearly  to unexploited Gold.

In Nigeria, mining accounts for only 0.3% of Nigeria’s annual GDP, whereas exploitation of mineral resources has been credited as the bedrock of Industrialization for any Nation. Russia’s coal exportation and the United States gold rush of the nineteenth century are examples of economies boosted by mining. The time for Nigeria to focus on solid minerals to fully profit from their natural deposits is now.

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