Nigeria awards mining exploration contract to 10 mining, consulting firms

LONDON – Nigeria has awarded a mining contract to ten exploration and consulting companies as part of the country's efforts to develop the sector, the mining and steel development minister said on Tuesday.

Abubakar Bawa Bwari did not say how much the contracts were worth but in July he had said eight firms would be awarded a government contract to the tune of 12.7 billion naira ($41.5 million).

Nigeria, Africa's top crude oil producer, is aiming to diversify its economy by developing other industries such as mining through various incentives.Nigeria has offered mining companies a 3-5 year "tax holiday", duty and tax-free importing of equipment, full ownership of their businesses and the ability to take profits out of the country

"Recently we gave a contract to four exploration companies, with six consulting firms to explore our mineral resources focusing on gold, zinc, iron ore, rare earth metals," Bwari told Reuters on the sidelines of the Mines and Money conference in London.

Bwari said Nigeria had offered mining companies a three to five year "tax holiday", duty and tax-free importing of equipment, full ownership of their businesses and the ability to take profits out of the country.

"Apart from the normal budgetary allocation government has given intervention of $100 million and we are focusing on exploration," he said, adding that the funds would be used to help government to develop the sector.

The World Bank was in Nigeria a few weeks ago to discuss progress on spending the $150 million the bank agreed to lend the country in April to develop the mining industry, Bwari said, adding that he would like things to move more quickly.

Companies such as Toronto-listed gold company Thor Exploration and Australian zinc miner Symbol Mining have operations in Nigeria.

($1 = 305.8000 naira)

(By Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Jane Merriman)