Ajaokuta Rolling Mill: Nigeria’s federal government has ruled out the possibility of completing the 43-years old Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill in Kogi state this year, saying its initial resolve to resume the construction of the mill was disrupted by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite made the disclosure Thursday while featuring in the weekly ministerial media briefing at the State House, Abuja.
He disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of $2 million for the conduct of a technical audit of the mill as demanded by Russians before the restart of its implementation.
He said the technical audit was necessary to ascertain the condition of the facility before restarting the work
According to him, just as arrangements were being made to commence the process, Covid-19 came and put a halt to all activities.
He said as the government moved to continue the earlier negotiations with Russia following the lockdown and procurement on, progress was again stopped by the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The minister maintained that the approved $2 million was still intact, saying it had not been paid out.
According to him, the government’s earlier promise to deliver the project this year would no longer be feasible, saying, “where we are today, we may not be able to get Ajaokuta to work.”
He, however, expressed the hope that something could be started on it that would be permanent while absolving the government of any blame over the non-completion of the project.
Responding to a question, Adegbite said: “I told you Ajaokuta, by the grace of God, we will start an irreversible process. The problem with Ajaokuta is actually what we call force majeure. Nobody thought of Covid-19 because the plan was to deliver Ajaokuta this year 2022.
And I’ve said it before when we came back from Russia. Yes, I went to the public and said, look we will deliver Ajaokuta before the end of this tenure. And I pray that I’ll have a chance to go back and apologise and explain what happened to the people before I leave office.
“Yes, it was through no fault of ours. We were ready to go, unfortunately, Covid became a force majeure.”
He stated that a Saudi Arabian group working with some Nigerians had undertaken to produce the technical audit without cost to the country.
Adegbite stressed that the country was blessed with huge bitumen deposits that have been left untapped while the one required for road construction is being imported.
He said his ministry has finalised plans to auction the deposits for processing to serve Nigerian road construction needs, reduce costs and create employment.
His words “We are going to auction now for bitumen in June, this will bring a lot of money. A lot of foreign companies are showing interest in our bitumen. This is even better than bitumen is found in Canada.
“So, we have a lot of Canadian companies that have shown interest, because Canada supplies the largest volume of bitumen to the world now. So, we have a lot of companies coming from Canada. They want to participate in our bitumen project that will create jobs, give value to the government, and of course, will also help when it comes to our projects, road construction.”
The minister disclosed that the government was reviewing Mining Act, 2007, to bring it up to date, saying 44 solid minerals have been found in over 500 locations in Nigeria with many in commercial quantities.
According to him, the mineral deposits are broadly categorised according to their uses, into five groups Industrial minerals such as baryte, kaolin, gypsum, feldspar, limestone; Energy minerals such as coal, bitumen, lignite, uranium; Metallic ore minerals such as gold, cassiterite, columbite, iron ore, lead- zinc, copper; Construction minerals such as granite, laterite, sand, and Precious stones such as sapphire, tourmaline, emerald, topaz, amethyst, garnet, etc.
On the reform in the sector, Adegbite noted that seven minerals have been designated as strategic to unlock the enormous potential in the sector.
“They are coal, iron ore, bitumen, gold, limestone, lead-zinc and barite. We have adopted a forward-thinking approach, by developing the strategic minerals of the future. These include minor metals such as titanium and cobalt.
The Minister revealed that Nigeria has commenced gold exports through the Segilola resource development, which is expected to export 100, 000 ounces of gold annually.