BY FRANCIS KADIRI, ABUJA.
The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF), Hajia Fatima Umaru-Shinkafi has assured stakeholders of ‘unbiased review of applications for financing of Nigerian mining projects,’ adding that ‘support to beneficiary-projects under the SMDF-AFC Joint Project Development Facility will be determined by an independent neutral entity, while funds will also be administered through transparent processes.’
The Executive Secretary, who gave the assurance during the launch of an applications web portal and signing of Tripartite Agreements between SMDF, AFC and respective stakeholders, encouraged miners to submit their projects to the portal for review, adding that the funds will be administered in line with global best practices.
Discussing the significance of the SMDF-AFC collaboration, the Executive Secretary explained that it aims to unlock financing for Nigerian Mining Projects, stating: ‘We are all aware that it is difficult to raise capital for Nigerian mining projects. Mining occurs in phases, and you cannot proceed to the final stage, where the most capital is required without completing your development studies.’
While expressing concern that most Nigerian Mining projects get stuck and are abandoned at the exploration and development stage, she was optimistic that the facility will be a saving grace to projects at development stage.
She commended the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake for setting the tone for the event by highlighting his vision for the sector, adding that ‘the Honorable Minister’s vision has driven SMDF’s partnership with the African Finance Corporation, and I am incredibly grateful for his guidance.’
She said: ‘The initiatives we announced today support critical strategic pillars of the Honourable Minister’s Renewed Hope Agenda, including Joint Ventures with Mining Multinationals and Big Data on Priority Minerals,’ and assured stakeholders ‘that whatever strides we have achieved today are the tip of the iceberg,’ adding that the Renewed Hope Agenda has many more opportunities for the mining community.
The Executive Secretary expressed optimism that AFC and SMDF will bridge the lack of expertise and funding for Nigerian mining projects through the early-stage mining project development facility.
She explained that by pooling their resources and expertise, SMDF and AFC will ensure that promising mining projects receive the guidance and early-stage funding required to deliver high-quality mining assets capable of attracting local and international long-term capital.
While expressing concern that ‘over 90 per cent of Nigeria remains under-explored, with significant potential to discover new and increase existing deposits,’ Shinkafi pointed out that increased exploration activity is crucial to realizing the benefits of the country’s geological endowment and supporting a pipeline of new projects to
‘This under-investment in exploration is why AFC and the SMDF have partnered with Xcalibur Multiphysics to the Honourable Minister’s exploration big data strategy by developing a data discovery portal and a pre-competitive exploration program,’ she added.
According to the Executive Secretary who is also Managing Director of the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI), the AFC and SMDF will support the globally recognised expertise within the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency to improve understanding of Nigeria’s mineral resources potential, as well as ensure a solid pipeline of future projects.
Shinkafi expressed concern that Nigeria accounts for only 0.02% of the global mining exploration budget, and noted that the Minister is committed to changing the story with his administration’s big data strategy.
‘AFC, SMDF and Xcalibur Partnership directly result from this Minister’s plan and agenda,’ she said, adding that the mandate of SMDF is to unlock financing to promote the growth of Nigeria’s mining sector and improve economic parameters such as job creation and mining sector contribution to GDP while ensuring sufficient returns to the Fund.
‘The SMDF invests mainly across three funds: SMDF Growth, SMDF Opportunities and SMDF Responsible Mining. The Honourable Minister has directed us to implement this mandate fully, and he will give all the necessary support, and for that, I am grateful.’
Shinkafi said the SMDF-AFC intervention to unlock development financing for Nigerian Mining projects aligns with the Renewed Hope Vision of $1 trillion GDP and 7% economic growth, adding that SMDF is committed to implementing the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu administration.
In her vote of thanks, the Executive Secretary said: ‘I want to say a big thank you to everyone present here today and, particularly, the Permanent Secretary. She has been pivotal in hosting this session on the sidelines of the Nigeria Mining Week, and it is due to her intervention that we are gathered here today.’
She commended the Miners Association of Nigeria, PwC and Vuka Group and was full of praise for the President of the AFC, Samaila Zubairu, adding that the current SMDF-AFC collaboration is the beginning of many progressive partnerships between the two organizations.