Kola Ogunbiyi is the Director-General, National Steel Raw Materials Explorations Agency, Kaduna. In this interview with Francis Kadiri, the veteran Geologist and Information Technology expert discusses the focus of his administration, saying that the production of the Nigeria Steel Raw Materials Map and the Inseam Exploration of the Obi-Lafia coal resource are some of the first targets of his administration. Excerpts:
You started as a Civil Servant and rose through the ranks to become Director-General of the NSRMEA. Now that you are at the top, what are your goals for the Agency?
Yes, it is true that I grew through the system; I rose through the ranks to become a Director in the Agency, and then, was appointed the Director-General of the Agency in November, 2022 after thirty-three and half years in the service. Having gone through the system, I understand the mandate of the Agency and I know its uniqueness as well as the challenges. I must admit that the past Chief Executive Officers have done tremendously well for the Agency. I will consolidate on the efforts of my predecessors and improve on their achievements with the support of my management team.
My top management and I with the support of other levels of management will deploy new methods and innovations to ensure that the Agency fulfills its mandate which is principally to explore for iron and other steel raw materials across the country, as well as contribute to scientific research needed to develop the production of iron and steel. We would intensify on fieldwork and cover more grounds as part of efforts to fulfill the mandate of the Agency.
I again commend the efforts of the past Chief Executives of the Agency for the grounds they had covered. However, as part of the efforts to fulfill the mandate of the Agency, my administration would build on their past works and intensify exploration to cover more grounds over large fields across the federation especially in the area of core drilling, which already has some areas marked.
As an exploration Agency, fieldwork, research and documentation are among our major goals. We will intensify them toward greater mandate fulfillment.
I am pleased to inform you that frantic efforts are currently being made to increase the array of equipment needed for the greater realization of the mandate of exploring for iron and steel raw materials in the country. The NSRMEA has carried out geological mapping at various stages, and we need to carry out core drilling on the area mapped in order to get reliable reserves of these resources.
Exploration is capital intensive. How would you source the funding needed to achieve the set goals?
We hope to attract intervention from relevant institutions. The goal is clear and it is obvious that if achieved, it will lead to economic development of the country. In fact, we have a great role to play in the realization of the national economic diversification agenda.
“Globally, steel remains very important for industrialization and we need to let the world know that Nigeria has the needed steel raw materials. This would attract investment and contribute to the development of the economy”
Globally, steel remains very important for industrialization and we need to let the world know that Nigeria has the needed steel raw materials. This would attract investment and contribute to development of the economy.
When the goal is clear and worthwhile, I am optimistic that local and international funding bodies would consider it expedient to invest in the projects. Frankly, the projects require huge capitals and we do not have enough funds, but we believe that the vitality of our goals is powerful enough to attract funding from development partners and the government.
Let me tell you this: One of the top priorities of my administration is to carry out an in-seam exploration of the Obi-Lafia coal in Nasarawa State. Obi-Lafia coal is the only moderately coking coal that has been found in Nigeria deduced from exploratory activities and detailed laboratory and technological tests carried out.
This type of coal is required in iron and steel production. The NSRMEA had carried out detailed exploration on the Obi-Lafia coal resource where 138 boreholes were drilled with depth ranging from 80m to over 520m and 2 shafts sunk. As a result, a reserve of 128 million tonnes was established with 32 million tonnes estimated for seams 12 and 13, which are mine-able economically. The geological structure of the deposit is so complex that more technology and expertise is required to maximize the success of the project. It is for this reason that further work in the form of in-seam exploration is necessary for the Obi coal project and we will do it, by the grace of God.
Why in-seam exploration?
In order to get the Obi-Lafia coal deposit ready for commercial development, an in-seam exploration had been proposed since 1981 but the execution of the project had been delayed due to paucity of funds. The in-seam exploration work would be carried out in two phases as earlier proposed. (a) Driving an inclined shaft for immediate collection of bulk samples required for pilot tests; (b) in-seam exploration proper.
In-seam exploration makes it easier for mineral explorationists to study the structure of the targeted mineral deposit. The method makes it easier for experts to determine the best method to mine the discovered mineral deposit, Obi-Lafia as a case in hand.
As an Agency responsible for exploration of steel raw materials, we will leave no stone unturned in our effort to explore other coal resources and provide reliable information needed by local and foreign investors.
This will go a long way to trigger private investments in coal and the coal value chain.
What exploration efforts are you making to support investments in steel production?
One of the new projects of my administration is to establish the proximity of various steel raw materials to steel plants across the country. We are doing this by producing a map – The Nigeria Steel Raw Materials Map.
The map would feature all existing steel plants across the country, and will indicate the steel raw materials closest to the plants.
The essence of the Nigeria Steel Raw Materials Map is to show the proximity of the deposits to steel producing industries across the federation. It would detail the location of various deposits of steel raw materials across the country, and show the steel plants nearest to the deposits.
What this means is that every steel producing industry in the country would know the steel raw materials close to their plants. When we come up with this data, the steel plants would not have to go far to get the raw materials they need to feed their production.
Iron and steel industries rely on steel raw materials. Without steel raw materials, no steel plant can function, no job, no activity. The importance of establishing the proximity of steel raw material deposits to the iron and steel industries cannot be overemphasized. It is very important because it is difficult and costly to transport raw materials from distant locations to the industries where they are needed.
So, when we establish the proximity of steel raw materials to steel producing centers, we are encouraging investors and making it easy for them to do business in Nigeria.
This project is one of the ways in which the current management of the NSRMEA has decided to key into the commitment of the government to ensure ease of business for investors.
How do you plan to develop the capacity of NSRMEA staff for geochemistry, geophysics and resource estimation?
As an exploration Agency, NSRMEA is responsible for detailed geological exploration and investigation of iron steel raw materials. Staff that will carry out the task must be abreast of the dynamic skills in their respective fields.
Our staff are thoroughbred experienced professionals and we are very proud of them. However, skills and technology are dynamic and knowledge needs to be updated, hence the plan for massive capacity building for our staff to update their skills and knowledge in diverse areas of our operations, not limited to geochemistry, geophysics and resource estimation. So, capacity development of staff is a top priority of the current management.