As Nigeria continues to export her crude oil to major consumers in the world, President, Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, NMGS, Prof. Clifford Teme, in this interview with GABRIEL EWEPU, said soon the country will have no major importer of its crude, he therefore urged the government to diversify the economic base to solid minerals development.
Can you tell Nigerians briefly about your organisation?
My organisation is known as Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, NMGS, and was founded on the 15th of January, 1961, but was inaugurated in December 17, 1962 in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, present day Enugu State.
At the point of inauguration, the President-General of Nigeria, late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, became the patron, and since that time every other President or head of state had become patron of the association till date.
President Goodluck Jonathan is currently the patron of the association, and is one of the few societies in the country that has Mr. President as the patron, because no society in the country has such privilege to have the President as the patron.
What necessitated the establishment of this society?
When you are moving around, you see hills and rocks, these things contain a lot of minerals. Minerals are elements that build up all these rocks, and when you get these minerals well extracted, it gives rise to so many things, even gold. That is why the regional people now form the association. Now when they formed it, they formed it with metallurgists.
Metallurgists are those who go and wean these materials and put them in proper shape for commercial quantities. Initially it was called Nigeria Mining Metallurgical and Geological Society, but later on it was shortened to Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society.
We are here to extract the natural resources of the country from crude oil to solid minerals. Crude oil is an asset and number one consumer, America, has been playing tricks with us for a long time.
When they buy from us, they accumulate and they donâ€™t use and they now have three times what we have. Now they are arranging with China to buy their own. So we donâ€™t have anybody to buy our own, except some minor countries.
You see that it will affect the economy, that is why we are now going towards the solid minerals industry, which is the mainstay of countries, like Australia, South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, and others. They donâ€™t have oil but they are managing.
Are you saying Nigeria should diversify its economy?
Yes, and we want to be in compliance with Mr. Presidentâ€™s transformation agenda.
Can you explain more about the transformation agenda in the minerals and metals sector?
The one that is very obvious that affects everyday life, is the production of power (electricity), and coal is the primary source of electricity apart from solar, wind, and so on. Many countries in this world use coal, like United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, and others use coal.
Talking about illegal miners, it is a serious menace in the mining sector, what is the NMGS doing to address the trend?
It is just like a cankerworm or cancer, and in one of our council meetings, we took a decision, and said if you pursue them you canâ€™t win them, so we now made them to be recognised. Instead of calling them illegal miners, we call them artisanal miners and we give them certificates that makes them proud. COMEG is fighting and needs more people on the field to monitor, and in the next five years there will be no illegal miners.
As an organisation what are you doing to woo investors into the solid minerals sector?
Now that the news has gone round that crude oil will not be the order of the day, there are investors in this country everyday struggling to get a mining lease. They are trying to share the whole country into a mining lease, and they cannot share the country without knowing what is in the ground.
Do you think Nigeria has the manpower in the mining sector to harness the huge solid mineral resources?
We do have the manpower. We have 35 universities in this country producing geologists. Assuming every school produce 50 geologists, you can imagine the number.
Do you have data on young geologists employed in the mining sector?
The mining sector is just coming up again, so I cannot give the accurate figure because the number is increasing, and any number I give today can change tomorrow.
How are you regulating mining activities not to have negative impact on the people in host communities?
What we are doing now is, before you can mine, you have to study and find where the minerals are by drilling holes and by looking at core materials.