04 March 2014, Lagos – The Chairman, Solid Minerals Development Fund, Mr. Linus Adie, in this interview says the Fund will facilitate the expected development of the mining sector and turn it into a money spinner in no distant time. Excerpts:
What are the objectives of the Solid Minerals Development Fund?
The federal government in its anxiety to fast-track development in the mining sector decided to create an operational vehicle that will be devoid of the civil service bureaucracy.
The Fund in essence is supposed to be the engine of growth of the sector, because if you look at the mandate of the Fund it encompasses all aspects of mining, but basically it is for generation of geosciences information, facilitating policies, that will fast-track development of the sector, to assist the operators, artisanal and small scale miners by the creation of extension services, like we have in the Agriculture sector, it is to build human capacity within the mining sector. Finally, it is supposed to look at the infrastructure in the mine sites.
How much was the takeoff grant for the Fund you received from the government?
It was not much, just N100 million, which was to purchase computers, hire an office; and usually the takeoff grant is just for little things, and have an office mainly. The main money for this was dedicated Funds like the Natural Resources Fund, which the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources are enjoying now.
Since this Fund was established, has it made any meaningful impact in the activities of the sector?
It is now that we have just started activities that will lead to the impact expected. In the structure of mining itself, if you start anything you do not expect immediate impact, because a project can be started today and it will start yielding fruits only after eight years and this is globally and not only in Nigeria.
So in mining, you cannot talk of impact immediately. Burkina Faso that is mining today started building their policies and others about 16 years ago, and it took Ghana 12 years.
Are you then saying that the mining sector in Nigeria has prospects as a money spinner?
Of course, mining has a wonderful characteristic, and if you are talking about artisanal and small scale mining, which is all over Nigeria at the moment, it can be developed to create jobs. Take for example, in this country people imported cement in the past and the whole ports were blocked; but today, we are proud to say that cement from Nigeria is being exported, and these are the gains of mining. But the ministry started looking for limestone all over the country several years ago.
The Dangote Cement Company at Obajana, the limestone was discovered several years ago, it was when one of the administrations brought consultants from Bulgaria to start drilling that Dangote finally took over. Today, it has employed so many people, and making so much money. That is the structure of mining, and it is not an overnight thing.
Talking about the bottlenecks in the sector, how can these challenges be handled in terms of financing them?
It is true, mining is a business, and when you talk of trickle nobody is thinking of giving anybody cash. A group of South Africans living in America decided to collect money to develop a Fund to develop their mining sector, called Africa Development Fund. Today, it is a very big Fund. What was the aim? The aim was just like what we are trying to do, to help operators to grow including artisanal miners. The prospects of mining are very high, and Nigeria has been rated by several international economies that it is going to be a giant, this means there will be lot of construction and business boom.
– Gabriel Ewepu, Vanguard