Nigeria taps into the global lithium market

For years, Africa’s largest economy relied mainly on oil, but is now placing its bets on its mining industry. Nigeria wants to bank on the booming global lithium market.

Nigeria is tightening rules around mining its lithium minerals countrywide following the rush for it by foreign mining companies.

The government said no company would be allowed to mine and export raw lithium unless they set up processing and refining plants in Nigeria.

Dele Alake, Nigeria’s Minister of Solid Materials, told DW that the government would “do everything possible to discourage the carting away of our solid minerals without value addition.”

The much-coveted mineral lithium is used in the production of rechargeable batteries and electric vehicles. With discoveries of large lithium deposits in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy wants to profit from the billion-dollar global lithium market.

Lithium is currently mined in Nassarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti, and Cross River States.

The mineral is also being mined¬†extensively in Zimbabwe, Africa’s largest producer, as well as in Namibia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and Ghana.

“I want to emphasize the fact that the era of exporting raw solid minerals from Nigeria is over. Any company wishing to come and invest in the solid minerals industrial sector in Nigeria henceforth must add local value,” Alake said.

With new licensing requirements, mining companies must show business plans that benefit local communities before being granted licenses.

Alake said that the move is critical to help create jobs. “I am glad to mention that such an initiative is already on stream as some companies have already commenced operations in Nigeria.”

Ganfeng Lithium Industry Ltd., a Chinese company, is building a lithium processing plant in the central Nasarawa state.

The plant is to process about 18,000 tons of lithium ore per day to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. The government said this is an example of the desired type of investment.

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, is also rich in gold, limestone, and zinc, but its mining industry is underdeveloped. It contributes less than 1% to the country’s gross domestic product.

The government wants to diversify the country’s economy, shifting away from its massive reliance on oil.

But it is not only the revenue from lithium that is a focus for Nigerian authorities. They say they also want to ensure that the mineral isn’t mined to the detriment of the environment.

They have already warned foreign nationals like the Chinese to avoid engaging in the illegal mining of lithium.

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