The chief executive officer of AG Vision Mining Ltd., Fadi Ghazale, sat with journalists on the sidelines of the just-concluded Nigeria-Africa Natural Resource and Energy Investment Summit (NAFNIS) in Abuja, to talk about how Nigeria’s mining potential could make her one of the world’s biggest mining destinations.
What can you say about your exploration activities, so far, in Nigeria, in terms of quantity and quality?
Beyond the fact that Nigeria is highly endowed with minerals and is a mono-cultural country, it is clear that the reliance on oil and gas has led to the abandonment of the solid minerals sector for over 50 years. The recent drive by the Federal Government to revive the sector only began recently, to galvanise the sector and get it to contribute to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
So, based on the recent exploration work that we have done, mostly in the western part of the country where we covered about 300,000sq km of what we call the ‘schist belt’ – anindicator that tells about the prospects of minerals in Nigeria – over the last five years, we made several enlightening discoveries.
We were in Osun, Kebbi, Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara, Kwara states and so many other places and I can confirm that Nigeria has the potential to even go beyond the mining destinations that are more advanced like Burkina Faso, Ghana and other neighbouring countries. We believe that Nigeria has more potential than other countries. The only thing is that this potential is under-explored. [What we] need is more financing at the same level as that for oil and gas. This is the only way this potential can be unlocked.
So, what lessons do you think Nigeria can take away from programmes like NAFNIS, where other African countries come to share ideas?
I believe Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa and should set the pace for discoveries or how the discoveries can be grown to production. Currently, the government is financing exploration projects [to the best of its ability] because all we need is a couple of success stories. By the time we know, the West will know that Nigeria is a conducive environment for investment in the minerals sector. Then, there would have been some successful discoveries to push all the companies to come in, especially given our successful history in oil and gas.
The success of companies like Total, BP and all other big entities will be easier to replicate in the solid minerals sector because we believe the potential is there and just needs the right environment for investors to feel more comfortable. They need to know the value of their investments and how much returns on that investment they can make.
Given that you have been operating in Nigeria for the past eight years, how have you coped with the insecurity?
We believe that is a very serious problem right now especially in the northern part of the country, particularly the northwest. It has affected our operations a lot. We had to abandon several areas, without a chance of going back to those particular zones. However, I believe that the world is unsafe today. We cannot say that some places are safer than Nigeria. All of sub-Saharan has challenges related to security and Nigeria is a part of this.
In the midst of these, the Federal Government has been supportive, deploying the necessary security agencies to protect our operations. Up to early last year, we worked in Zamfara, inspite of the issues persisting there; the government has created a safe environment for us to execute our projects. We believe that, over the next couple of years, progress will be made and the sector will be thrown wide, open for investments.
What is your advice to the Federal Government on mining?
Our advice to the Federal Government is very clear. The sector needs funding and proper projects to help the exploration sector uncover the potential minerals of Nigeria. I think the same way the government wore the cap on the oil and gas [issue] they can do the same for the solid minerals sector. It is the future. So many minerals related to energy and battery production exist in Nigeria but we don’t have the chance of proving their existence in economic quantities yet. This should be the strategy going forward.
… and for companies interested in coming to explore for minerals in Nigeria?
We believe that there is a certain level of confidence in Nigeria’s mineral sector, driven by the current administration. Projects like the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project (NIMEP), the first of its kind in Nigeria. Through this initiative, the government has made some discoveries – by working in line with the ‘JORC standard’ – matching the expectations of the of the international community.
We believe the government should continue funding this project. The last project was funded about three years ago and, since then we have not had funding. The hope is that the government will continue funding such projects so the international community can have confidence in the data we are producing and see that it aligns with international standards.
If this is done, Nigeria will become the next frontier of mining in Africa and the world and the sky will be the limit.
About AG Vision
AG Vision is mineral exploration and consultancy company that specialises in geological work and exploratory drilling and capable of pushing the assets into the production stage in line with international best standards. The company has been working in Nigeria for the last 8 years, with several successful projects to its name, including partnerships with the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the National Geological Survey Agency (NGSA).
Its projects revolve around bitumen and its concession in Nigeria, gold, platinum, base metals, PGE, amongst others.
AG Vision’s team comprises geologists and geoscientists that try to identify prospective areas holding mineral deposits in commercial quantity and have got economic potential, carry out sampling, geologic mapping, geochemical sampling, trenching and drilling to quantify the amount of minerals in site.