May 23, 2007 / 4:42 PM / 12 years ago

Nigeria awards 1,000 mining licences to investors

LAGOS, May 23 (Reuters) - The outgoing Nigerian government has granted 50 mining leases and 952 exploration licences to international and local firms, a statement said on Wednesday.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, who steps down on Tuesday, has attracted criticism for embarking on a sale of state assets to allies in the private sector in the dying days of his administration.

“Over one thousand licences have so far been approved,” the ministry of solid minerals said in a statement.

The statement did not give a breakdown of the awards, but said licensees include local industrial conglomerate Dangote Group, which is a financier of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, United States-based Eco Phoenix and Ashaka Cement Plc ACC.LG.

Nigeria has passed a law deregulating the mining of solid minerals in an attempt to attract much needed private investment to develop the neglected sector. The new law guarantees tenure security, offers incentives and provides for environmental issues and community development.

It also allows licensees to transfer their rights, opening up a sector now dominated by small-scale miners to greater competition and consolidation.

Nigeria, the world’s eighth bigggest oil exporter, has commercial deposits of over 34 mineral resources including gold, tin, tantalite, kaolin and barytes.

The government sold 14 of its mineral titles at an auction in the capital Abuja last week, while several other mineral concerns have also been slated for privatisation.

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