The Federal Government has awarded mining contracts to 10 exploration and consulting companies, as part of the country’s efforts to develop the sector, the mining and steel development minister, Abubakar Bwari, said on Tuesday.
Bwari did not say how much the contracts were worth, but in July he had said eight firms would be awarded a government contract to the tune of N12.7 billion ($41.5 million).
Nigeria, Africa’s top crude oil producer, is aiming to diversify its economy by developing other industries such as mining through various incentives.
“Recently we gave a contract to four exploration companies, with six consulting firms to explore our mineral resources focusing on gold, zinc, iron ore, rare earth metals,” Bwari told Reuters on the sidelines of the Mines and Money conference in London.
He said Nigeria had offered mining companies three to five years’ tax holiday, duty and tax-free importing of equipment, full ownership of their businesses and the ability to take profits out of the country.
“Apart from the normal budgetary allocation government has given intervention of $100 million and we are focusing on exploration,” he said, adding that the funds would be used to help government to develop the sector.
The World Bank was in Nigeria a few weeks ago to discuss progress on spending the $150 million the bank agreed to lend the country in April to develop the mining industry, Bwari said, adding that he would like things to move more quickly.
Companies such as Toronto-listed gold company Thor Exploration and Australian zinc miner Symbol Mining have operations in Nigeria.
Recently, the minister said his ministry would be awarding N14 billion ($38 Million) contract for exploration of strategic mineral from the N30 billion mining intervention fund.
He explained that the ministry was able to access N15 billion (about $38 Million) from the fund.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had in November. 2016 approved N30 billion ($82 million) intervention fund for mining exploration.
The fund was drawn from the Natural Resource Development Fund and given to the ministry as intervention fund to focus on exploration activities which was the heart of mining.
The natural resource fund is meant primarily for the agriculture, mining and water resources sectors. Bwari said that the N30 billion ($82 million) was meant to focus on exploration of minerals and other activities in the sector.
He said with the release of the fund, the ministry would be awarding N14 billion ($38 Million) contract for exploration of strategic minerals.
According to Bwari, the ministry will be awarding another contract to cover minerals such as triphat, and Phosphate among others that were not on the list of minerals that are currently being explored.
According to him, the ministry will also look at the possibility of Nigeria using its huge phosphate mineral deposits for fertilizers to boost agricultural products.
The minister of state said that exploration would be conducted on the mineral to ascertain its quantum in the country.