It was reported yesterday that Chinese nationals are digging in Nigerian mines, stealing whatever Lithium deposits they can find and smuggling it back home to fuel their industries.
Given the metal’s high price on the international market and its importance in the production of batteries that will power the next generation of electric products, including electric cars, the government must intervene before it is too late.
Miners under the umbrella of the Miners Association of Nigeria had made an impassioned plea to the government to stop Chinese miners “scavenging” for Lithium, claiming that their activities would endanger the economy in the long run.
A look at the Lithium market eliminates the miners’ concerns and demands:
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global lithium market is worth $3.83 billion in 2021 and is expected to double to USD 6.62 billion by 2028 at an 8.1% CAGR. This is more than the more familiar metal, silver, which was valued at USD 182.1 billion in 2019 by Grand View Research and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.0% in terms of revenue from 2020 to 2027.
Given that exploitation of lithium has the potential to add to the economy, particularly when value addition is done, the government should act quickly to end total control of these mines, as well as mines for other minerals across the country. Licenses for exploitation should be accompanied by conditions, such as the requirement to process these raw metals into by-products in Nigeria and fully control the export of these products by local regulators.
The government is well aware of this; it was recently reported that the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, stated at a summit titled “Leveraging Future Minerals for Sustainable Development,” that a Tesla representative approached him at a summit in Saudi Arabia and expressed interest in obtaining lithium from Nigeria, but he declined.