The Federal Government has given six billion naira lifeline to the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, made the disclosure at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.
He said that the lifeline, to serve as a palliative for the sector, would be expended on setting up six mineral clusters in the country’s six geo-political zones.
“During the lockdown, I was invited by the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to come up with things to be done during post-COVID-19 to help stimulate the mining sector.
“Six billion naira was given to our sector as palliative. We came up with setting up of mineral clusters in the six geo-political zones. We have six regions in Nigeria and we are doing six projects.”
Adegbite said that the ministry came up with the building of a Gold Souk in Kano in Northwest Nigeria, to boost gold trade and processing in the state.
“We use to have goldsmiths in Nigeria but the profession is fading out. We want to bring it back. People now take our gold to Dubai, to add value.
“If you take a quantum of raw gold worth N10,000 to Dubai, they will refine it without adding anything and create earrings, bangles and other jewelries and sell them 10 times the value they bought it.
“Why can’t we make the value locally that is what we are doing now. The concept in Kano is to revive and retain the value of our gold and create employment.”
He said that Bauchi State was selected in the Northeast for its abundant kaolin, noting that the mineral was being imported by pharmaceutical and paint companies in Nigeria.
“The mineral is used for the production of mixed kaolin and other drugs. Bauchi State has a lot of kaolin and we are planning to develop them.”
Adegbite said that Kogi was selected in the North Central as the state was also blessed with gold, adding that the ministry would build a smelting plant in the state to aggregate the gold.
He said further that Ibadan in Oyo State was selected in the Southwest for its abundant gemstone market.
“The gemstone market in Ibadan is informal and the government is not getting anything out of the mineral. Therefore, the government is now going to formalise it.
“It is an international market. People come from outside the country but we are being cheated; we are going to regulate the market.
“We are also going to train people on gemstones cutting and polishing to add value to the mineral.”
Adegbite said that Ebonyi in the Southeast was also selected, due to its large quantum of lead mineral, adding that a smelting plant would be built in the state to boost the activities of artisanal miners in the zone.
The minister said that Calabar was similarly, chosen in South South for its abundant Barite mineral.
It will be recalled that the Cross River government had approved five hectares of land for the mines and steel development ministry for the cluster project.