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Nigeria requires a data-driven mining sector

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By Abiodun Okunloye

The mining sector is estimated to be worth about $750 billion in solid minerals.

Zacchaeus Opafunso, a prominent Professor of Mining in Nigeria, who also holds the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG), has emphasised the significance of investing in and making use of essential data in order to maximise the country’s mining potential. He highlighted the potential of the sector in a recent interview. The mining sector is estimated to be worth about $750 billion in solid minerals such as gold, lithium, coal and lead-zinc.

COMEG is responsible for regulating and supervising professional practices in the sectors of geology, Petroleum engineering, geochemistry, engineering, geophysics, and metallurgy. As the industry attracts more investments, the Council plays a crucial role in ensuring standards are met. Originally founded in 1990 through decree number 40 during the military regime, it was later restructured in 2004 to become an official act of parliament. He stated that their primary objective is to oversee and control the activities of experts in various sectors of Nigeria’s extractive sector, such as oil and gas, solid minerals, water resources, and Agriculture.

Unqualified individuals should not be allowed to work in the sector.

He further expressed concern about unqualified people working in the industry and that there is too much Fraud happening. As one of the government-sanctioned agencies, they have the responsibility to guarantee that only highly trained individuals from universities and technical schools can work in Nigeria’s mining sector, following global standards. He also placed great emphasis on the vital role that the association plays in accrediting educational institutions as well as overseeing the work of professionals.

Prof. Opafunso emphasised the importance of adhering to the regulations set forth in Section 73 of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 and Section 139 of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulation 2011, which require that all mining operations must have a registered geologist or mining engineer on staff. He discussed the current initiatives being implemented to ensure compliance with these rules. At the beginning of this year, they shared their suggestions with the Minister, advocating for the implementation of these regulations.

Global best practices will be incorporated in the sector.

Their current focus is on guaranteeing that all companies hire experienced mining engineers, geophysicists or geologists. They have uncovered foreign-operated institutions that are not complying with COMEG accreditation regulations, which is illegal. Additionally, he discussed working together with other organisations and universities to enhance the Nigerian extractive sector. Collaborating with their members and diverse professional organisations, they are committed to promoting adherence to regulations and increasing awareness of their significance.

Opafunso emphasised the importance of Environmental Stewardship in the mining industry. He stated that mining carries risks that can have lasting effects on the environment. It is crucial to implement effective environmental practices to prevent harm. Their dedication lies in educating the stakeholders and upholding strict regulations for the promotion of sustainable operations. Nigeria’s slow progress in mining development can be attributed to various obstacles, including inadequate infrastructure, unreliable geological data, and regulatory hurdles.

Related Article: Tinubu plans special force for solid mineral

To compete internationally, it is crucial for Nigeria to invest in data-driven sector. Having accurate and comprehensive geological information is essential for attracting Investors and effectively directing exploration efforts. Furthermore, Nigeria’s government is actively working to boost the skills and knowledge within the industry. The Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences (NIMG) was created to train professionals and equip them with the necessary skills. Partnerships with global organisations and educational establishments play a crucial role in keeping Nigerian geologists and mining engineers up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field.


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