By: Olajide Toriola
Expression of interest by prospective investors in the country’s bitumen project would commence within the next three months, the Minister of Mines and Steel development, Dr Kayode Fayemi has disclosed.
Speaking in Abeokuta, Ogun State Capital during his tour of mining sites in the state at the weekend, Dr Fayemi said government was working with a renowned consulting firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers, to actualise the commencement of the process by mid year.
Nigeria is reputed for having the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, spanning approximately 120 kilometres in Ogun, Ondo, Lagos and Edo States.
The Minister, who paid a courtesy visit on Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun before embarking on tour of some mines in the state, urged state governments to key into the bitumen project, which he said could change the fortunes of the states.
Dr Fayemi said the Federal Government would partner with the state governments, investors and host communities to ensure a smooth coordination of the project and to ensure that international best practices were strictly adhered to.
He said that emphasis would be placed on exploration and exploitation of the minerals, stressing that prosective investors would be encouraged to set up processing plants, to ensure value addition and employment generation.
The Minister further stated that the Federal Government would partner with states and not compete with them as afar as mining is concerned.
He said : “On bitumen, our expression of interest would start within the next two to three months.
“We are working with PWC on the project. We want states to key into the project and Ogun is one of the states endowed with bitumen deposit, so we want states to take advantage of this.
The Minister who stated that about 80 per cent of asphaltic materials used for road construction in the country was still being imported in spite of the vast bitumen deposit, said government would focus on ensuring that serious investors who have proven work plan, financial capacity and are ready to build processing plants are given licences.
The processing plants, according to Fayemi, would boost local production, which will in turn would help Nigeria meet local demands and create job opportunities for her teeming youths”.
He urged state governments to set up special purpose vehicles or enter into a joint ventures with renowned operators to invest in the bitumen project.
“The ministry would subject activities of the investors to proper monitoring in order to ensure compliance with laid down environmental and safety procedures and guidelines,” the minister added.
Restating government’s commitment to security of investment, Fayemi said the establishment of the Mines Police division by the Nigerian Police as well as the emergence of the Joint Task Force on Mines surveillance would put an end to criminal activities in the mines and ensure safety of lives and investments in the mines.
The Minister later visited Dangote Cement’s plant and limestone mine in Ibese and Lafarge Cement’s plant and limestone mine in Ewekoro, where he inspected production and exploration activities of the two giant cements companies.
Earlier at a meeting with stakeholders in the mining sector, the Minister had frowned at the attitude of some operators who are in the habit of exporting unprocessed minerals. He said the ministry is working with the customs and other security agencies to halt the trend.
Similarly he said states would now ratify consents, once the host communities had ratified it. This he sad would reduce the tension between the state and federal government.
He said it was important for operators to cooperate with state governments and the host communities where they are carrying out their mining activities, in spite of the fact that they got their licences from the Federal Government.