‘Min­ing sec­tor has huge po­ten­tials to gen­er­ate in­come, cre­ate em­ploy­ment’

The Di­rec­tor- Gen­eral of the Nige­ria Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey Agency (NGSA), Dr. Alex Ndubuisi Nwegbu, in this in­ter­view, gives in­sight into the com­plex pro­cesses of min­ing and why Nige­ri­ans must see the sec­tor as a gold mine.

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Ade­mola Ade­bayo

What are the pro­cesses of gen­er­at­ing data for solid min­er­als ex­plo­ration?

The fun­da­men­tal thing when you want to carry out any form of ex­plo­ration is to gen­er­ate a ge­o­log­i­cal map. The ge­ol­ogy of an area pre­dis­poses that area to par­tic­u­lar min­er­als. In Jos for in­stance, we have what is called the younger gran­ites of Jos, where we have the ma­jor tin oc­cur­rences in Nige­ria. The rock type de­ter­mines the kind of min­eral you’d look for in a par­tic­u­lar area.

There are cer­tain min­er­als that are as­so­ci­ated with rock types like the mafic (dark coloured) rock types. If for in­stance you are prospect­ing for chromite, you look in ar­eas where there are ul­tra ba­sic rocks. In Nige­ria for in­stance where we have the schist belt, these are the ar­eas where we have pre­pon­der­ance of gold oc­cur­rences. So if you want to prospect for gold in Nige­ria for ex­am­ple, the first place to go to is the schist belts.

In look­ing for gold, you could start with geo­chem­i­cal map­ping, which en­ables you to do sam­pling at dif­fer­ent places. In this process, you col­lect soil types, rock types and even stream sed­i­ments, which you take to the lab­o­ra­tory and an­a­lyse. Fur­ther anal­y­sis would now de­ter­mine if the re­sults got­ten fol­low a par­tic­u­lar lin­ear trend. If they are struc­turally con­trolled, you go ahead to look for the struc­tures in which case you can now in­tro­duce geo­physics, which en­ables you to de­ter­mine the struc­tural trends that con­trol the min­er­al­i­sa­tion.

These are ba­si­cally the fun­da­men­tal ap­proaches when do­ing min­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions. As the re­sults be­come more pos­i­tive, you would need to do some more de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

In a coun­try like South Africa, there are mines which go as deep as three kilo­me­tres. This sug­gests to us here in Nige­ria that we haven’t re­ally started min­ing in the real sense of it, as the deep­est mine in Nige­ria is a lit­tle deeper than 100m, mean­ing the in­her­ent po­ten­tials in this sec­tor are so huge.

In­vestors com­plain of in­cor­rect ge­o­log­i­cal data in today’s min­ing busi­ness. How was it done in the past dur­ing the tin mines?

Ba­si­cally, that was when the Bri­tish were in charge of the ge­o­log­i­cal sur­vey of Nige­ria. They ac­tu­ally con­cen­trated in con­duct­ing min­eral as­sess­ment. Apart from the fact that Nige­ria needed these min­er­als at that time, they were equally im­por­tant for the colonial gov­ern­ment then.

Fun­da­men­tally, search for min­er­als fol­lows ba­sic prin­ci­ples which they used. Hav­ing known the ge­ol­ogy of an area, what are the pos­si­ble min­er­als that can be found in such ar­eas, and in some cases, they got leads through sur­face oc­cur­ring min­er­als. For in­stance dur­ing road con­struc­tion, when cut­ting through hills, it’s pos­si­ble to come across min­er­als. It is pos­si­ble that even some of our streams can wash down min­eral re­sources from dis­tant lo­ca­tions and you start see­ing de­posits by the river. So there are many pathfind­ers that could be em­ployed in de­ter­min­ing where you want to go and prospect for min­er­als.

How is the NGSA syn­er­gis­ing with the BGSA and the USGS to grow lo­cal ex­plo­ration?

You’d agree that there are some climes which are al­ready ma­ture in the min­ing busi­ness. And the vi­sion of gov­ern­ment is for us to key into those ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies for us to also get to that ad­vanced stage. We have been talk­ing with the Bri­tish Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey Agency, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey, and even the South African Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey agen­cies to see ar­eas of col­lab­o­ra­tion.

We’ve also been talk­ing with the China Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey and some of the ex­plo­ration com­pa­nies from China. We are open to col­lab­o­rate with peo­ple who have the in­ter­est of Nige­ria at heart, and been a com­mer­cial ven­ture, they will also be here to pro­tect their busi­ness in­ter­ests. It would be more of a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship, as long as the min­ing sec­tor in Nige­ria will grow be­yond what it cur­rently is.

The sec­tor has huge po­ten­tials, not just to gen­er­ate money, but also to cre­ate em­ploy­ment and of course pro­vide lots of raw ma­te­ri­als needed for our lo­cal in­dus­tries.

What are the chal­lenges of min­ing in the coun­try?

One of the big­gest chal­lenges we have in Nige­ria is that we find it dif­fi­cult re­lat­ing min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to our ev­ery­day life. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery com­mod­ity that is in use today is a prod­uct of min­ing. From ve­hi­cles to planes, wrist watches, glass, mo­bile de­vices and so on. It is when we start to ed­u­cate our peo­ple on how min­ing im­pacts on our ev­ery­day lives, that we may be­gin to re­gard min­ing more se­ri­ously than we are cur­rently do­ing.

The fact that we are not a pro­duc­ing na­tion makes it im­pos­si­ble for most peo­ple to un­der­stand the value chain of pro­duc­tion from the mines to the in­dus­tries and fi­nally the end users. A typ­i­cal ex­am­ple is the Dan­gote Group, which uses about 90% of its raw ma­te­ri­als from the na­tion’s lime­stone mines.

Dr. Alex Ndubuisi Nwegbu

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