Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Alake’s Dynamic Leadership Ignites Global Interest In Mining Sector Within First 100 Days

The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Oladele Alake.
The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Oladele Alake.

The first 100 days of a leader’s tenure are often viewed as a critical period, setting the stage for their leadership style, policy direction, and overall vision. This concept, originally introduced by former United States President Franklin Roosevelt, has become a global benchmark for assessing the early success of leaders or public servants.

In the context of Nigeria, the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development (MSMD) has historically received limited attention despite its potential to generate substantial revenue, co-existing with Steel Development as the Ministry of Mines and Steel.

Despite the abundant mineral resources present in almost every state in Nigeria, the sector faced underutilisation, inefficient governance structures, illegal mining and opacity. The fixation on oil by successive governments further marginalised the visibility of the solid minerals industry. However, a transformative shift occurred with the advent of President Bola Tinubu’s administration and the appointment of Dr. Dele Alake as the Minister of Solid Minerals Development.

Alake wasted no time in initiating a seven-point agenda aimed at reforming the sector, restoring investor confidence and renewing global interest. He identified eight priority minerals – gold, baryte, iron-ore, lead/zinc, coal, limestone, bitumen and lithium – as key focal points for intervention. Within his first 100 days, significant milestones have already been achieved. One notable accomplishment is the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the German firm Geo Scan GmbN. This strategic partnership involves deploying cutting-edge proprietary technology capable of exploring mineral resources up to 10,000 metres below the earth’s surface, with no cost to Nigeria. The outcome will be the generation of comprehensive big data on the specified priority minerals and their deposits, aligning with the minister’s agenda.

Another pivotal development in Alake’s early tenure is the launch of revised guidelines for community development agreements (CDA). The objective is to ensure that host communities benefit maximally from mining operations, while government royalties for economic development are safeguarded. Alake emphasised the symbiotic relationship between mining companies and host communities, stressing the importance of a peaceful environment for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.

In his commitment to transparency and accountability, Alake pledged to strengthen the ministry’s mines inspectorate. This enhancement aims to verify the authenticity of mining agreements and explores the potential involvement of traditional rulers in signing agreements on behalf of host communities. By addressing issues of governance, community engagement, and technological advancement, Alake’s leadership is steering the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development toward a path of sustainable growth and development.

As the first 100 days conclude, Alake’s dynamic approach signals a promising era for the solid minerals sector in Nigeria. The strategic alliances forged and the proactive measures implemented underscore a commitment to unlocking the sector’s vast potential and positioning it as a cornerstone of economic development in the country.

In a bold move towards reforms, Alake recently announced the revocation of 1,633 mining licenses. This action was taken due to the operators’ default in paying stipulated annual service fees, exceeding the 30-day notice issued by the Mining Cadastral Office (MCO). According to sections 11 and 12 of the Nigerian Mineral Mining Act (NMMA), the operators had a grace period which they failed to utilise. Alake, emphasising a new era of accountability, warned against shortchanging the government in royalties and taxes, signalling the end of such practices. He also issued a stern warning to illegal miners, declaring the commitment to enforcing the law under President Tinubu’s administration.

As part of the broader strategy to enhance security in the mining environment, plans for the establishment of mines police and a mine surveillance task force are well underway. A significant indicator of this initiative was the visit of the Minister of Defence, HE Abubakar Badru and his Minister of State, HE Bello Matawelle, to Alake’s office. Matawelle pledged unwavering support and collaboration with the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, recognising the sector’s crucial role in Nigeria’s economic development. Alake emphasised that the new security architecture would leverage advanced technology to monitor mining sites covertly, detect intrusions and provide rapid responses to mitigate potential threats.

Beyond domestic efforts, Alake has actively engaged the international community to explore investment prospects in a revitalised mining sector. Diplomatic endeavours have yielded positive outcomes, with a notable agreement signed in Australia. This deal entails free training for Nigerian mining professionals on modern mining technology and practices. Alake, representing Nigeria and Australia’s Minister of Mines and Petroleum, Hon. Bill Johnston inked the agreement, promising Nigerian miners access to training, study trips and exchanges of mineral professionals. The collaboration is expected to attract foreign direct investment, positioning Nigeria as a competitive player on the global stage.

In the first 100 days of Alake’s leadership, the decisive actions taken reflect a commitment to transparency, accountability, and the overall revitalisation of the solid minerals sector in Nigeria. The revocation of licenses, the establishment of enhanced security measures and international collaborations underscore a vision for sustainable growth and development in the mining industry.

In a strategic move to attract investment to Nigeria’s mining sector, Alake recently addressed the Mines and Money Conference in London. At the conference, he passionately advocated for the benefits of investing in Nigeria, emphasising lower production costs resulting from surface mining and the vast untapped mineral wealth within the country. Alake highlighted Nigeria’s geological diversity, boasting over 44 distinct mineral types in exploitable quantities across more than 500 locations. Furthermore, he underscored the global significance of lithium, recently recognised as a crucial strategic mineral, aligning with emerging trends.

The minister assured the audience that the Tinubu administration is actively removing bottlenecks hindering ease of doing business in the sector. Additionally, they are addressing security challenges and prioritising solid minerals beneficiation and value addition as essential components for sustainable growth in the sector.

Alake’s compelling presentation generated substantial enthusiasm, leading to a high-level meeting with British Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden. Dowden, who chairs the British National Economic Security Council, expressed interest in partnering with Nigeria on energy minerals, particularly lithium. Alongside founder of Carousel Bio-energy, Jafar Hilali, Dowden pledged to facilitate investment by a consortium of British companies in the lithium value chain. The collaboration aims to produce lithium battery-powered energy buses for the Nigerian domestic market. The British Deputy Prime Minister extended an invitation from the British government to President Tinubu to attend an African summit scheduled for the next year, strengthening diplomatic ties.

On the sidelines of the London conference, a meeting with the United States Assistant Secretary for Energy and Natural Resources, Geoffrey Pratt, took place. Both leaders agreed to establish a joint team of officials to explore financing for credit to mining firms and infrastructures. Pratt expressed satisfaction with the ongoing reforms announced by Alake, expressing the United States’ interest in being Nigeria’s partner of choice in developing the solid minerals sector.

This renewed interest from the government has sparked excitement within the mining industry. Alake’s office has become a hub of activities as local and foreign investors eagerly seek opportunities to contribute to the development of the mining sector.

In just three months, Alake’s leadership has positioned Nigeria’s solid mineral resources in the global spotlight. His proactive approach has garnered praise, with the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris acknowledging the transformative impact. Idris noted that Alake has elevated solid minerals to a prominent position, garnering envy due to his remarkable work. As the minister aims to consolidate his “Agenda for the Transformation of Solid minerals for International Competitiveness and Domestic Prosperity,” key elements such as the creation of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation, joint ventures with mining multinationals and the establishment of mineral processing centres will take centre stage in the coming months. The mining sector is experiencing a new dawn, bringing renewed hope and prospects for sustainable development.

Tomori is the special assistant on media to the Minister of Solid Minerals Development

Segun Tomori
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