The Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bwari, has said that Federal Government’s efforts to improve the performance of the solid minerals and mining sector and open it to investments are yielding desired results, with the country ranked now among the most conducive environments to do mining business globally.

The minister, who disclosed this at the just concluded Africa Down Under 2018 Conference on a topic titled ‘A New Dawn ln Nigerian Mining Sector’ in Australia, said that given this new trend, private investments into mining projects covering gold mining and refining, foundry works, lead/zinc exploration and production, tin and columbite mining and processing among others have translated to a major boost in production.

The minister’s position on the improved performance of the solid minerals sector came on the heels of a recent disclosure by the Chairman of Symbol Mining, Australia, Andrew Simpson, an investor in Lead/Zinc mining in Bauchi State, that Nigeria’s Lead/Zinc ore contains 22% zinc compared with world’s average of 6%.

He then urged the Nigerian banking industry to support and encourage mining businesses noting that one of the disappointments faced by mining companies in Nigeria has to do with poor investments because of lack of good mining history.

“Nigerian government should help educate local banks to assist in mining investors,” Simpson advised.

According to the minister, this significant leap is borne out of the present government’s resolve to hinge on the experience gained at the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Focus Lab where the ministry focused on removing challenges hindering formal exploitation of gold, tin and lead-zinc mineral endowment following reports of massive exports of these mineral commodities to foreign smelters against Nigeria’s low production figures.

He explained: “A new export guidelines for the export of mineral commodities have been developed, which seeks to ease challenges surrounding grant of export permits and licensing issues. Formal mining is on the rise in Nigeria and this is evidenced by the number of mineral titles held by investors.

“Prominent among these projects include Symbol Mining/Goidal Resources that are currently developing an open pit mine for exploiting lead-zinc deposits located in Bauchi and Nasarawa States.

“First Patriots are already mining and producing 5,000 tonnes per month lead-zinc concentrates; Thor Explorations Limited that are continuing with mine development and exploration works over Segilola Gold Project; two coal mines operated by Eta-zuma Group and Ashaka Cem Plc; and Promethean Resources that engages in the production of tin and columbite concentrates for export”, Bwari added.

He pointed out that Nigerian mining sector was now more than ever investors’ haven evidenced from the high grade deposits exploited by current operators coupled with the conducive and competitive investment climate.

He listed some of the policy measures that had made the mining sector more investment-friendly as comprising 100% ownership of mining project as secured by the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007; waiver of customs and import duties for plant, machinery and equipment imported for mining operations; and tax holidays of three to five years.

Other incentives are free transferability of funds; permission to retain and use earned foreign exchange; and capital allowances of up to 95% of qualifying capital expenditure and predictability of environmental costs.

The minister explained that for those having fears about easy transportation of finished products, the government had adopted appropriate strategies to solve challenges through the implementation of a National Integrated Infrastructure Masterplan.

Bwari expatiated: “The dredging of the River Niger has been concluded while works at Warri Port and the Escravos Channel is about to be completed. These works would facilitate export and import of goods.

“The Central Corridor Railway Line linking Warri Port to Abuja through mineral resources endowed regions of the North Central, home to iron ore, steel plants, coal resource and pegmatite-bearing lithium is under construction. The rail line from Warri Port through Ajaokuta to ltakpe is already completed.

“All these are aimed towards diversifying the Nigerian economy through solid minerals. Nigeria before now was a mining destination before oil and gas took over. So, the new direction is to generate revenue and jobs through the mining sector”, the minister added.

At the Nigeria Investment Roundtable Put together by the ministry, at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Australia, Stephen Davis, the Chief Executive Officer of Comet Minerals Limited, commended the Federal Government on its various policy initiatives and other efforts to reposition the nation’s mining sector.

He said: “The Nigerian Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development has a great team and after about 11 years of being around, Nigeria has emerged as a world-class centre for Nickel production.

“The Nigerian Mining Act, good team of experts, advisers and technical personnel, coupled with the minister’s resolve and capacity to assist companies to thrive and build capacity upon good mining environment and conditions have helped the country to be an excellent ground for mining.

“For investors coming to Nigeria to do mining business but worried about security challenges in the northeast, I advise that they play by the internal security arrangements and rules to avoid ugly incidents. There are internal security protocols that companies must follow”, the mining investor added.

Similarly, the Chairman Kogi Iron, Dr Ian Burston, said also at the Business Luncheon that before now mining was difficult in Nigeria but that now the present government has created a conducive environment for mining businesses to thrive.

Burston said: “Nigeria is a very serious mining province from what l have experienced lately. The geological experience in Nigeria has been significant and l am very excited. By this month of September we will begin our very first export to China.

“We are also working on building Nigeria’s best Mining House with the production of at least four products. In ten years we hope to have five operating mining houses in Nigeria”, he added.

Director AG Vision, Brad George who has worked with 16 nations in the area of solid minerals exploration and now operating in the North East on a 15,000sq km land the largest in Nigeria, said at the Luncheon that he was convinced Nigeria has a very friendly environment to do mining business.

He said: “l believe gold market has very good prospects like it happened in nickel and Zinc because Nigeria has a solid and workable mining system”