Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mohammed Sada, has expressed optimism that there would be a complete turn-around for the minerals and metals sector next year.
Speaking at a stakeholders' workshop organised by the National Steel Raw Materials Development Agency (NSRMEA) in Abuja, he said: "I have the strong belief that 2013 will be the year of complete turnaround for the minerals and metals sector."
He hinged this view on the positive indicators already recorded as well as the plan to have NSRMEA, in association with internationally accredited firms, filling the geosciences data-generating gap that has hitherto prevented the production of acceptable feasibility study reports by exploration licence holders.
According to Sada, this was "an essential requirement for accessing mineral project funding schemes."
The minister stated that the agency would play a leading role in attaining the Vision 20:2020 and Transformation Agenda target for his ministry to revitalise the entire steel sector for the operation and production of three million tonnes of liquid steel per annum by 2015.
He said the agency's 40 years' experience and equipment had made it possible to carry out activities that would bridge the exploration gap that had so far prevented most exploration licences from transforming into mining leases and producing mines.
"We have private investors from foreign countries that are engaged in mineral exploration activities, which is very encouraging," he added.
"The investors are attracted here because our geology is very rich. Any investor who perseveres in the activities of the sector will get very good returns."
Director-General of NSRMEA, Alex Ohikere, said it was their wish that the steel plants that were currently using only scraps would in a short while begin to use Nigeria's iron ores.
His paper presented at the occasion was entitled: "Filling the Gap between Mineral Discovery and Mining: The Role of NSRMEA".
According to him, his agency's work led to mining, which made raw materials available to users like steel and cement industries.
He noted that mineral exploration played an important role in developing new deposits and creating opportunities for future economic development.
"The fully explored mineral deposits that are not being exploited today will surely be exploited tomorrow," he said.
Ohikere added that through sustained funding by the government, the agency would continue to focus on evaluation of mineral deposits with the potential to support large, long-life, low-cost mining operations.
He stated that in recognition of the need to provide an accurate national geo-scientific data bank that would attract investors to the minerals and metals sector, the Federal Government had been funding its relevant exploration agencies.
"As a result of this," he said, "our country can boast of availability of basic geological information.
"Furthermore, National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency has been repositioned to carry out detailed exploration through acquisition of modern drilling rigs and capacity building."