A private mining syndicate headed by Mr. Hugh Morgan, a mining industry veteran, has made a potentially “high grade” Nickel discovery in Nigeria, The Australian, an Australian national newspaper, has reported.
According to the newspaper, the discovery is unusual because the nickel is found in small balls up to 3mm in diameter of high purity in shallow soils in what could be the surface expression of a much bigger hard-rock nickel field.
Nickel is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. It belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile.
The metal is valuable chiefly as an alloy, as about 60 per cent of world production is used in nickel-steels (particularly stainless steel). Other common alloys and some new superalloys comprise most of the remainder of world nickel use, with chemical uses for nickel compounds consuming less than three per cent of production.
Nickel has been widely used in coins, though its rising price has led to some replacement with cheaper metals in recent years.
Some of world’s largest producers of the metal include Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Indonesia, Canada and China.
The nickel balls discovered in Nigeria, which are rumoured to grade better than 90 per cent nickel and thought to be a world first given their widespread distribution, offer the potential for early cash flow from a simple and low-cost screening operation to fund a full assessment of the find that has exploration circles buzzing.
Details on the find are sketchy. When asked to comment last week, Mr Morgan only said that it was for the Nigerian government to make an announcement.
Nickel is no stranger to the Liberal Party bulwark and former Reserve Bank board member. Between 1990 and 2003 he was chief executive of Western Mining Corporation (taken over by BHP Billiton in 2005) when it was Australia’s biggest nickel producer.
What is known is that the Minister for Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is listed to speak at the three-day Africa Down Under mining conference at Perth’s Pan Pacific Hotel next month, with past conferences drawing bumper crowds.
Fayemi is to speak first on Wednesday, September 7, while Morgan will follow along with consulting geologist Louisa Lawrance. Morgan is listed as speaking as a director of the private company Comet Minerals.
The discovery of Titan is rumoured to be close to Dangoma, a small farming town in the outskirts of Kaduna State.
Fayemi is one of 13 African mines ministers to attend this year’s Africa Down Under, reflecting the importance African nations place on attracting Australian mining expertise and funding for mining.
Nigeria itself has a stated ambition to grow its mining sector as an offset to its dependence on the oil industry, which has been ravaged by the slump in prices.
It has said it wants to attract billions of dollars of new investment in the sector, a push that could benefit from likely international interest in the Titan find by Morgan’s private syndicate.
Earlier this month, Fayemi told Bloomberg that about $US5 billion would “kickstart the mining sector”.
“In two to five years, we would have started production of iron ore, lead, zinc, bitumen, nickel, coal and gold at a serious scale,” he said.
Efforts to get to speak to Fayemi on the discovery of high grade nickel in the country were not successful as phone calls and texts to his mobile phone were unanswered.
However, a statement by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development Mr. Mohammed Abbas said the ministry was aware of the occurrence of the mineral in the area in Kaduna State, and appealed to the public to give the ministry more time to arrive at reports on the new discovery.
He said: “Since the first discovery many months ago, technical experts from the ministry have been following up on this development as provided by law.
“We appeal to the general public to allow the ministry to come up with detailed reports on the new find.”