DIGITAL ECONOMY IN THE POST COVID – 19 ERA: FOCUS ON OPPORTUNITIES IN THE MINING SECTOR IN NIGERIA

KEYNOTE ADDRESS OF THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF STATE, MINISTRY OF MINES AND STEEL DEVELOPMENT UCHECHUKWU SAMPSON OGAH, OON, FCA At THE NIGERIAN SOCIETY OF ENGINEERS (BWARI BRANCH), INVESTITURE OF ENGR. HALIMAT. S.C ADEDIRAN AS THE FIRST FEMALE BRANCH CHAIRMAN AND INAUGURATION OF HER 2020/2021 EXECUTIVE MEMBERS AT THE AUDITORIUM OF NATIONAL ENGINEERING CENTRE, CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT, ABUJA ON 5TH DECEMBER,2020.

THEME: DIGITAL ECONOMY IN THE POST COVID – 19 ERA: FOCUS ON OPPORTUNITIES IN THE MINING SECTOR IN NIGERIA

PROTOCOL

  • The President Nigerian Society of Engineers and Distinguished Chairman of the Occasion, Engr. Babagana Mohammed, FNSE
  • Special Guest of Honour, My Brother, Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, FNIA
  • Special Guest of Honour, Honourable Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Ramatu Tijani Aliyu
  • The Guest Speaker, Chairman, National Assembly Service Commission, Engr. Ahmed Amshi, FNSE
  • Fathers of the Day, Distinguished Senator (Engr.) Iyola Omisore, Engr. Ibrahim Alhassan Musa and Engr. Lanre Sagaya, FNSE
  • Distinguished Patrons, Engr. Babakobi O. Mohammed, FNSE and Engr. Henry C. Obih, FNSE
  • The Chairman and 2020/2021 Executive Members of NSE, Bwari Branch
  • Gentlemen and Ladies of the Press;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen!

 INTRODUCTION

I want to specially thank NSE, Bwari branch, the First Female Branch Chairman and 2020/2021 Executive members for the rare honour of addressing the “Engineering Family” today as the keynote speaker at this inauguration ceremony. As the Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, I am more elated that you decided to focus your discussions on the opportunities in the Nigerian Mining Sector.

During the introductory meeting in my office with the newly inaugurated 2020/2021 Executive members of NSE, Bwari branch, I got attracted to the outlined vision of the exco and we resolved to set up Technical Working Groups to take on some specific subjects in the minerals/metals sector. Some of the proposed programmes of the branch include:

  • The annual young Engineers Summit
  • Capacity building and consultancy services to the Ministry
  • Development of training modules for Artisanal & Small Scale operator in the mining sector
  • Sensitization and Support to best WAEC/NECO graduates to enable them pursue carriers in Engineering and other programmes of the branch.

As I congratulate the newly inaugurated Chairman and 2020/2021 executive members of NSE, Bwari Branch on your well-deserved positions, you must take serious note of the burden of leadership especially as professionals. The leadership of the Ministry under Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite and I have taken serious note of the fact that at your inauguration, the focus was on the mining sector. We hope to collaborate more closely with NSE and tap from the technical guidance of the society for a sustainable growth of the mining industry in Nigeria. In the course of this address, I will share with you the vision of Mr. President on the sector, the initiatives of the Ministry and the some specific opportunities for engineering solutions in the minerals/metals sector.

  1. PRESIDENT’S VISION FOR THE MINING SECTOR

Mr. President who has anchored his administration’s diversification agenda on two cardinal pillars of Agriculture and Mining has mandated the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to amongst other things;

  • prioritize orderly and efficient development of mining of the 7 priority minerals in our mining roadmap namely; Coal, Bitumen, Limestone, Iron Ore, Barites, Gold and Lead/Zinc Ore.
  • Strengthening collaboration with State Governments and relevant security agencies to ensure security and safety of mining areas
  • Introducing incentives to improve the investment climate for mining activities
  • Stamping out illegal mining and formalizing artisanal and small-scale mining activities across the country
  • Collaboration with the private sector to create a large number of well-paying jobs for Nigerian youths.

Arising from the above vision of Mr. President, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has initiated the following programmes/interventions:

  • National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project
  • Downstream policy
  • Baryte programme
  • Streamlining of mineral title application processes for efficiency and transparency
  • Optimization of revenue from the mining sector
  • Formalization of Artisanal and Small Scale operators
  • Revitalization of privatised ailing industries.

DIGITAL ECONOMY IN THE POST COVID19 ERA

The world we live in has evolved and digital economy has developed worldwide from cloud computing, mobile web services, smart grids to social media and has become the new normal in the post covid19 era. This trend cuts across every sector and has become the key driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth even in the mining industry.

The Covid19 era has introduced new lexicons like social distancing, physical distancing, contact tracing, virtual meeting, self-isolation etc, all suggesting a new order of virtual community driven by technology. I am confident to state that the Nigerian Mining industry is yet to fully harness the opportunities that abound in the digital economy and there can be no better time than in the post covid19 era.

The above situation challenges the ingenuity of our Engineers as of old to look inward and proffer solutions for effective digital technology driven mining industry in Nigeria. The first industrial revolution saw the development of steam engines by Engineers to pump water from the mines replacing human powered pump and we are at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution.

OPPORTUNITIES IN THE NIGERIAN MINERALS/METALS SECTOR

After one year of my supervision of the Mining industry in Nigeria, I am in a position to inform you that over 90% of the industry players are still at the artisanal/Small scale level, harnessing mineral resources using basic implements of digger and shovel. There are enormous opportunities that exist in the mining sector but I will take some few practical cases which would shape our continuous engagement with NSE for sustainable development of the sector as follows:

  • Efficient and safe conduct of mining operations

The ultimate commercial goal of any company engaged in mining is to explore,  for minerals of interest, develop the deposit confirmed and exploit the mineral resource in the most safe, professional  and cost effective manner depending on the geologic and engineering characteristics of the mineral deposit and environmental condition of the mining area. Achieving this objective requires sound mining engineering technologies and supportive ICT solutions suitable to our mining environment. NSE can develop such solutions and make available to the Nigerian mining companies (artisanal, small-scale and largescale miners) to enhance mineral production.

  • Tracking of Mineral Productions

The Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 transformed the role of Federal Government from owner/operator to regulator/administrator. The new role makes the major revenue sources to be from title holding fees and royalties which are dependent on mine production figures. Technological solutions are welcomed for improved efficiency and transparency in mineral production monitoring and mineral revenue collection.

  • Mines Environmental Compliance

Sustainable mining practice is key in every mining jurisdiction and Government is making frantic efforts to ensure that mining operations are conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner. To achieve this, mining operators are required by law to reclaim and rehabilitate mined out sites. However, compliance with this statutory obligation by the mining operators has be a big challenge. This development has given rise to serious environmental issues across the mines fields in the country. There is therefore the need for digital tracking of such scenes across Nigeria for necessary remedial actions against the perpetrators.

  • FOUNDRY OPERATIONS

The demand for cast products is huge in the country and the automation level of our foundry processes in the country is still very low. There is an urgent need to conduct a study on the prospects of commercial foundry operations in Nigeria and establish the actual demands for cast products in the country.

  • REFRACTORY MAKING

Refractory clay materials abound in Nigeria but we still depend on imported refractory materials for the lining of our furnaces. The NSE can help us to carry out research on the prospects of producing specialized refractory products in Nigeria using the available local raw materials.

  • FERRO- ALLOY PRODUCTION IN NIGERIA

The Ministry will appreciate the technical inputs of NSE for the Development of feasibilities for commercial production of Ferro – alloys from the local raw material like manganese, Nikel, Niobum, etc.

  • COKING COAL

One of the major input materials for iron making through the Blast Furnace route is coking coal and is presently not available locally. Technological advancements have led to over 30% reduction in Coke consumption in modern Blast Furnace/Basic Oxygen Furnace. We will require the support of NSE in the areas of blast furnace automation as well as the possibility of using our local coal sources for iron making. This will make the Ajaokuta Steel Plant products very competitive as almost all other raw material sources are available locally.

CONCLUSION

Finally, I want to once again congratulate the Chairman, Engr. Halimat S. C. Adediran, FNSE on the occasion of your investiture and 2020/2021 executive members of NSE, Bwari branch for the opportunity to be here today. I earnestly look forward to working with you all in our effort to diversify the Nigerian economy away from oil/gas.

Congratulations!

Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, OON, FCA

Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development

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