As the world transitions from fossil fuel-powered cars to electric cars, the federal government has been strongly recommended to make deliberate policies to control lithium exploration, extraction, production and export in Nigeria.
Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF) Board Chairman Uba Sa’idu Malami, who made the call during a press conference in Abuja yesterday, said lithium will soon replace oil as a strategic economic resource worldwide. the world, and by formulating such a policy would allow Nigeria to have full control of the entire lithium value chain to take full advantage of the fight for Nigerian lithium that is already in the offing.
Malami, co-founder of the Geological Society of Nigeria (GSN), said, “Lithium is the new oil that could significantly control global wealth and nations’ economies for decades to come,” adding that the new economic order will be dictated to a large degree. by the ability of nations to take advantage of the emerging opportunities provided by lithium resources.
Speaking about the strategic importance of lithium in modern technology and the global economy, Malami said: “Diesel and gasoline were the power source for cars for decades. Now, cars have migrated from hydrocarbon to battery-powered cars, also known as electric cars. So the energy that the cars require is the batteries, while lithium is the key component of the batteries.”
He revealed that the price of lithium has risen from $500 to $5000 in three years, adding that “lithium is too strategic to be left open for unchecked exploration, especially since it is in global demand.”
According to him, the current regime in which a company obtains a license and begins to extract lithium without due control and regulation is not the best in the country.
The COMEG-certified geologist and businessman, who served on the boards of some notable companies in the extractive industry prior to his appointment as SMDF chairman, said: “Any foreign investment in lithium must be controlled in a way that prioritizes political interest. and economic. from the country.
“We must be zealous and quick to develop very intentional policies that will protect this primary mineral resource (lithium) like we did with oil and gas decades ago. If this is not done, it is a disservice to the nation and the African continent.”
The SMDF board chairman noted that Nigeria should lead the way for the governments of African nations to seize this opportune moment in history, saying that if Nigeria reins in local and foreign lithium investments with patriotic fervor, it will attract enormous wealth to the country. and strengthen its position in the emerging world economic order in the manner of crude oil.
Malami praised the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, for protecting Nigerian interests while responding to Tesla’s offer to extract and export lithium from the country.
“Arc. Adegbite told car manufacturing giant Tesla that it would not grant permission for their mining offer in Nigeria unless they set up a lithium battery manufacturing plant in Nigeria,” Malami said.
LEADERSHIP reports that Nigeria hosts commercial quantities of lithium distributed across the federation states, but mined by artisanal miners in Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti and Cross River states.
The SMDF chairman of the board called for the establishment of a special purpose fund for lithium exploration in the country, saying: “We must be ready and deliberate in developing funds for lithium exploration and exploitation in Nigeria, just as that we have the Petroleum Technology Development. Fund (PTDF). A special purpose fund for lithium exploration and exploitation must be urgently made available to the relevant authorities to ensure that Nigeria is positioned to take its leading place in the community of nations in the near future.
The geologist also called for a deliberate marketing strategy that would help the country control the lithium rush that will hit Nigeria and indeed Africa so that they can attract the results of the emerging global rush and trade regarding lithium. .
Malami, who first called for a strict control of lithium mining in 2019 after the discovery of high-grade lithium ores in the country, said: “If we go by numerical facts, there are millions of cars in use today in day in the world and the number may well be on the rise. These cars are in the millions; will require lithium as a power source.”
He explained that the advancement in technology shows that the world is progressing towards a future in which diesel and gasoline engines will be phased out and replaced by cars powered by lithium batteries.
“When this happens, you can imagine how many lithium resources it will take to power the electric vehicles that will be in use around the world!” he said.
Malami recalled the Climate Resolutions of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (commonly known as COP 26), noting that the Resolutions passed by nations aim to safeguard the environment.
He said: ‘COP 26 resolutions called for the production of cars with lithium batteries that will gradually replace hydrocarbon engines,’ adding that “in many ways, lithium is the new oil.”
Malami, who has been at the forefront of championing the patriotic development of Nigeria’s mineral resources, further said that he envisions the fight for Nigeria’s lithium among developed economies.
‘The Chinese are here for the lithium; the Americas are here too, and even the Europeans. They’re all here for Nigeria’s lithium resources. We must safeguard our future even if we want foreign investment. We need to control foreign investment so that we do not accept investments that will take away our mineral wealth while impoverishing our people and our country,” he added.