Nigeria’s mining pioneers weigh risks and rewards – by Ulf Laessing (Reuters Africa – May 11, 2016)

ANKA, Nigeria (Reuters) – Arriving on motorbikes after midnight, a dozen gunmen opened fire on gold miners sleeping at a camp in northern Nigeria last month, killing one of them and stealing their equipment before fleeing into the bush.

The site, a collection of huts and tents flanked by Baobab trees where locals sell nuggets they get from crushing and washing rocks, is the kind of place Nigeria hopes will attract investors to reduce its reliance on oil exports.

Eighty percent of mining is done like this in Nigeria, where the only significant foreign investor is Australia’s Kogi Iron. The experience of both the local miners and the Australian company sheds light on the advantages and challenges of following their lead.

President Muhammadu Buhari has visited more than 20 states in his first year of office to advertise largely untapped deposits of 34 minerals including gold, iron ore, coal, tin and zinc. He also wants investment to boost cocoa exports, cut a $20 billion food import bill and revive a once-mighty leather industry to offset plummeting oil revenues.

The country hopes to revive a moribund steel plant with help from Ukraine, modernise farming with Dutch experts and is counting on Chinese firms to build roads, railways and housing.

Africa’s richest man, Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, is working with Morocco and Congo-Brazaville on a planned fertilizer plant, while also investing in rice and tomato farming as well as coal.

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