The Federal Government has earmarked N20bn for exploration activities in the solid minerals sector in 2018.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this at the 2017 end of year ministerial press briefing held in Abuja on Thursday.
He also stated that the sector made a leap in its contribution to the Federation Account from N2bn in 2016 to N3.5bn in between January and November 2017.
Fayemi said the Federal Government planned to build its gold reserve from 2018 by purchasing gold from local miners in Osun and Kebbi states in a scheme to be managed by a Special Purpose Vehicle to be licensed by the government.
The minister also stated that by December 2018, two processing plants would begin processing of bitumen in the country.
Fayemi said the N20bn to be spent on exploration activities next year would be sourced from the N30bn approved by the government from the Natural Resources Intervention Fund, adding that the ministry was able to access the first N10bn from the fund in 2017.
He stated, “In 2017, a new board for the Nigerian Solid Minerals Development Fund was inaugurated and a competent management put in place. In collaboration with the Bank of Industry, the SMDF has launched a N5bn fund to provide single-digit interest loans to mining projects in Nigeria.
“Also, we have partially accessed the N30bn approved for the sector from the Natural Resources Intervention Fund for the promotion of the exploration of new minerals and to strengthen the regulatory capacity of the ministry.
“Consolidating on our feat of achieving 300 per cent increase in revenue (royalties and fees) between 2015 and 2016, we steadily progressed in 2017, and as of November of this year, the sector had already surpassed the entire revenue of about N2bn generated for the whole of 2016, with over N3.5bn contributed to the Federation Account so far.”
He added, “Notably, one of the key projects we are embarking upon in 2018, in partnership with some state governments and the private sector, is a gold purchase scheme. The mandate of the scheme will include equipping of the artisanal miners; provision of extension services; and the off-take of all the gold produced by the participants in the scheme.
“The aim is to facilitate employment creation, poverty reduction and increase in revenue to the Federation Account.
“Towards the accomplishment of this presidential mandate, the FMMSD has extensively reorganised the Mining Inspectorate and Artisanal Small-Scale Mining departments and set up an Investment Promotion and Mineral Trade Department. A Special Purpose Vehicle will be licensed by the government to manage the gold purchase scheme.”
Fayemi said plans were underway to assemble a $600m investment fund for the sector, working with entities such as the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, Nigerian Stock Exchange and others.
He also stated that the ministry visited the British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, United Kingdom to discuss the retrieval of all Nigeria geo-scientific data, maps, reports and other documents held in the country from the colonial period.
According to him, this activity will lead to the installation of a modern Information Technology infrastructure and data system to avail a comprehensive data dissemination of data to stakeholders