Dr Hassan Proposes Solutions to Challenges of Solid Mineral Development in Niger State

In view of the immense opportunities and solid mineral endowments in Niger State, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency, Dr Umar Albarka Hassan has stated that Niger State has the potential to be a mining powerhouse in Nigeria if the myriad of challenges in the industry are tackled adequately by all players involved.

In his lecture titled, "Mineral Resources of Niger State: Developments and Challenges", delivered at the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS) Minna Chapter Public Lecture and Awards, Dr Hassan observed that Niger State is endowed with a variety of metallic and industrial minerals, as well as gemstones and precious stones.

"The geology of Niger state comprises two of Nigeria's three litho-petrological components; the basement complex consisting of migmatite-gneiss complex, schist belt and the older granite, as well as the sedimentary basin which comprises sentiment fill of cretaceous to tertiary ages. These are mineral-supporting formations and it's no wonder that Niger State is blessed with so many minerals," he said.

Dr Hassan noted that Niger State has abundant mineral resources and rocks in virtually all the local government areas of the state. "Metallic minerals include lead-zinc ore, tantalite, manganese, iron-ore, and wolframite. On the other hand, precious metals like gold occur in 22 LGAs of the State except for Bida, Mariga and Edati, while platinum can be found in Beni-Kazal.

"There's also an abundance of industrial minerals such as clay, kyanite, feldspar, silica sand, kaolin, quartz, marble, mica, talc, and graphite, among others", he added. Other minerals mentioned are gemstones like tourmaline and beryl, as well as oil and gas in the Bida sedimentary basin. Reflecting on the riches that the land holds, he wondered why the state, and Nigeria as a whole, was yet to fully benefit from the mineral potentials in Niger and elsewhere, especially with regards to solid minerals.

According to data from the Mining Cadastre Office, a total of 453 mineral titles have been issued to operators in Niger state, out of which 369 were granted on gold alone, a proof of the widespread occurrence of the metal in the state. There have also been several mappings carried out in the state since the mid 1900s even until the recent National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project (NIMEP) works on gold and iron-ore.

Speaking further, Dr Hassan noted that the challenge of Mining in Niger state and other parts of the country is not an absence of minerals, but a lack of capacity by available operators, insecurity, inadequate legal and regulatory framework, insufficient data, lack of adequate funding, and the non-participation of government by way of holding equity in operating mining and metallurgical operations.

"There are immense opportunities for jobs and wealth creation, we have a demand and supply gap for industrial minerals worth $44.5 million annually, as per reports by the World Bank-assisted MinDiver programme, and Nigeria's determination to diversify the nation's economy with a focus on mining are factors that make Niger State attractive for investments," he noted.

For increased activities and to achieve recorded gains in the state, Dr Hassan urged the government to invest heavily in exploration activities to ascertain the deposits in the state, while calling on the government to acquire equity holding, and speed up legislation towards the enactment of the metallurgical act for proper regulation of the sector.

The NMGS is the professional body for miners, petrochemical engineers, mineral engineers, and geoscientists in the country with interests in oil and gas, mining and metallurgy.