BY FESTUS OKOROMADU
- Alake meets UK Deputy Prime Minister in London on lithium package
The Federal Government and the United States over the weekend entered into negotiations on how to fund mining projects in Nigeria.
To this end, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Oladele Alake and United States Assistant Secretary for Energy and Natural Resources, Geoffrey Pratt, have agreed to set up a team of officials of both countries to explore financing for credit to mining firms and infrastructures.
The engagement took place on the sidelines of the Mines and Money Conference in London at the weekend.
According to Pratt, the discussion followed an earlier meeting with President Bola Tinubu who sought the support of the United States for the country’s economic revival.
He said the United States would like to be Nigeria’s partner of choice in developing the solid minerals sector and was interested in the reforms announced by the Minister in his address at the plenary of the conference.
Noting that the United States has various institutions and laws which encourage direct foreign investment, Pratt said he would notify the agencies to collaborate with their Nigerian counterparts to work out the framework.
Responding, Alake said the gesture was welcomed by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development that has launched a seven-point agenda as its roadmap to reposition the sector.
He highlighted the establishment of the new Solid Minerals Development Company, which is a new security architecture to ensure safety of mine operations and data generation on a massive scale to de-risk the sector.
He said the credit facility and foreign direct investment promised by the United States would be in the mutual interest of both countries because energy minerals such as lithium are critical to the global crusade for clean energy and necessary for the manufacture of electric cars.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Fund, Fatima Shinkafi, commended the United States for investment in mining infrastructures in Central Africa urging a similar partnership with Nigeria that includes funding.
Also, a comprehensive investment package comprising the lithium value chain topped talks between UK Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden and Alake in London.
Hosting the meeting, Dowden said he chairs the British National Economic Security Council which is interested in partnering with Nigeria on energy minerals such as lithium.
He said the meeting was to kick-off discussion between both countries and that the officials of the Department of Trade and investors would sit down to work out the details of the partnership.
Dowden urged the Solid Minerals Minister to convey his pleasure to welcome President Tinubu to the UK-African Summit scheduled to take place next year.
In his initial remarks, Alake said Nigeria has large deposits of solid minerals and is ready to partner with investors from the United Kingdom adding that President Tinubu as the chief marketer of Nigeria’s investment drive would consider the invitation positively.
He announced that the administration of President Tinubu has introduced value addition as a priority policy in the sector.
He noted that Nigeria and the UK have a long history, and the Minister said the Nigerian team would be willing to sit down with their UK counterparts to take the discussion to the next level.
Replying, Deputy Prime Minister Dowden commended the government for the policy on value addition adding that going up the value chain would create more economic opportunities for partnership between both countries.
He highlighted the importance of the relationship between both countries observing that if the relations were bad, the UK would not be bothered with the supplies.
The founder and partner of Carousel Bio-Energy, promoters of the project, Jafar Hilali, briefed the meeting on his firm’s plans to intervene at every stage of the lithium value chain leading to the establishment of a battery production factory.
He promised to assemble a consortium of British companies in power supply, infrastructure and lithium battery production with a projection to produce Lithium battery powered energy buses for Nigeria’s domestic market.