Francisco Igualada is the Task Team Leader of the World Bank-assisted Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification Project, MinDiver, Nigeria. In this interview, the Senior Mining Specialist discusses the economic significance of the project for Nigeria, noting that leadership has exhibited the will to develop the sector in order to create wealth and jobs.
How much is involved and what are the components of the MinDiver project?
The grant is one hundred and fifty million dollars while the project is for five years. The project consists of well-defined components. They include governance of the sector, transparency, geosciences, legal and regulatory framework and institutional strengthening among others. The World Bank has also considered solving the problem of access to finance for small and median scale mining projects in the country.
Our objective is also to assist private sector operators in the country as well as all operators along mining sector value chain who are concerned or linked to industrial minerals. This is because industrial minerals are very important source of revenue for the country.
The World Bank wants to assist and support developing countries, Nigeria in this case, to develop the solid mineral resources of the country and become self-sustaining, economically. In this project, the World Bank sets to achieve the goal through supporting the development of the Nigerian mining sector.
What is your assessment of the performance of the government in the mining sector and would you say government is committed to economic diversification?
The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has been very passionate about the development of the Nigerian mining sector, and the World Bank desires to work with institutions that are committed to growth and progress. Therefore, the World Bank is happy to give its support.
The Bank has some expectations just like Nigeria has its own expectations from the project.
You took over the position of Task Team Leader of the Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project, SMMRP from Ekaterina Milakova. How would you reconcile the development pause suffered by the sector in-between the SMMRP which ended in 2015 and the MinDiver project that has just began?
We may wish to say that the MinDiver project is a continuation of the Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project, SMMRP. However, there has been a long gap between SMMRP and the MinDiver project which is just starting. What we will do is to evaluate the gap through analytical studies in order to ascertain the state of the progress made at the time. Then we will prepare other things for this last intervention.
What is your assessment now?
I am very happy with the project implementation unit. As a team, we are achieving the set goals and beating deadlines. Up till now, the MinDiver is doing excellently well and I do not see any problem because I look forward to continuous commitment of the team. I am a very realistic person and I mean it when I say there has been no drawback. So it is not just about being optimistic, I am also being realistic. So I am very happy about the success so far, even though the project is just beginning, yet some work has been done.
What is the basis of your confidence? Is it only the commitment of the MinDiver team members?
Capacity on the part of the MinDiver team is another reason. Yes, I see dependable capacity to execute the task. Commitment is also part of the basis for my confidence. Like I said earlier, I see determination to succeed, and determination to do things correctly, straight from the top, meaning from the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Let me stress that the Commitment of Dr. Fayemi is enough for me to guarantee success of the project because when there is strong will from the top, it will flow down to team members. I also see the strong determination of the Coordinator of the Project, Mr Linus Adie. So determination did not stop with the minister; it is also imminent in the Coordinator, his Deputy and other members of the team. They have what it takes to meet expectations and I have said we are making progress.
Nigerians have high expectations of economic change via the MinDiver project. Give me examples of successful projects like MinDiver executed in other African countries that have changed the economies of the countries and probably ended poverty?
Let me give you an example: This MinDiver project targets the economic betterment of the ordinary people. I say it is for the ordinary people because we have a plan to ensure that its dividends get to states of the federation. The development of industrial minerals will give rise to commerce in states and it will lead to increase in revenue for government. If the country works under proper governance and rules, there is sure be increase in revenue through the mining sector.
Increasing the revenue of the country means increasing the capability of people to take advantage of what the government does. This is a fundamental fact. It will lead to the founding and establishment of a number of industries which are related to mining sector activities like logistics, food, health, capacity building and agriculture among others. What Nigerians should know is that the MinDiver project is for virtually all other sectors of the Nigerian economy. The project is not for the mining sector alone. In fact, so many industries will be created along the mining value chain and this means wealth and job creation. This is how the ordinary people would be involved. They will reap the benefits of the MinDiver project.
I am happy to tell you that we even have health as one of the components of the project. The project does not discriminate any sector; rather it is a linkage to the prosperity of other sectors. The plans are being executed according to timeframe, criteria and certification. Proper auditing mechanism is also in place. The World Bank ensures that the best standards are in place in order to avoid shortfalls. Any project that fails to put these strategies in place will have challenges at the later stage when it is too late to put them in place.
The World Banks brings credibility and mechanisms to be trusted. For example if we bring environmental compliance, the country must adopt it as an international best practice. So we have a lot of policies and strategies that we are bringing in order to add value to the Nigerian mining sector. The World Bank also takes seriously the need to avoid environmental damage caused by mining activities. So there must be a country regulation in environmental compliance that will be enforced in line with global best practices. This is called sustainable mining and it is one of the practices which the World Bank encourages all mining nations to adopt.
I come from Spain and I happy to tell you that Spain has been doing very well from as far back as the Robben times, meaning over two thousand years ago. During this period and till date, innovations in Spanish mining sector continued to be sustained and improved. This should be the case all over the world.
It is wrong to believe that solid mineral resources will become exhausted such that mining ends. Nigeria has over one million square kilometers of discovered mineral resources, and it will never end. Spain has half of it, and mining has been in progress in Spain for over two thousand years and it still on going.
What do you think should be done to restore the glory of the Nigerian mining sector?
Technology transfer is crucial but before transferring technology, knowledge has to be transferred. Unfortunately, the mining sector in Nigeria has had consequential drawbacks because for a long time, it neglected mining and concentrated on only oil. For over forty years, the mining sector was not developed. Right now, the country must retrain personnel and update the institutions so that the sector can be updated in terms of development and global best practices.
The country’s institutions of specialised learning must be abreast of innovations in mining. A new labour force must be generated. It is only after this is done that technology should be transferred.