The Federal Government aims to hand over the $4.5bn Ajaokuta steel complex to private operators this year as part of a plan to kick-start its industrial and mining industries, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has said.
Construction of the Ajaokuta steel plant, which lies on the Niger River and was supposed to have an installed capacity of five million metric tonnes of steel a year, began in 1979. Work was delayed by the government’s failure to pay the builders, Russia’s Tyazhpromexport, on schedule.
By 2004, when it was taken over by India’s Ispat Industries Limited, it had yet to produce any steel. Ispat’s concession was revoked in 2008 and the government has yet to resolve all outstanding legal issues, Fayemi said.
“Ajaokuta steel mill is one of the major issues I have put on the table,” Fayemi was quoted by Bloomberg to have said in an interview in Cape Town on Monday. “Under my watch, it will be revived,” he said.
In addition to steel, Fayemi said the government aimed to improve the implementation of mining laws, make available better data on the country’s deposits and act to regulate informal mining. Because of the global rout in commodity prices, the minister does not expect significant investment soon, according to punch.
“The sector has been comatose for some time. We will be ready for the next boom,” he added.
Initially the focus will be on industrial minerals for domestic consumption, he said. Limestone for cement production, iron ore for steel, bitumen for asphalt, barium for oil drilling and lead and zinc will be focused on, he said.
The country will also try and attract investment into gemstone mining and will improve data on gold deposits in Zamfara State and elsewhere before trying to attract investors in 2017, he said.
An attempt will also be made to revive thermal coal production for power generation, Fayemi added.