(Adds junior minister quote, context)
By Felix Onuah
ABUJA, July 4 (Reuters) - Nigeria will offer a 12.7 billion naira ($41.6 million) mining contract to eight companies in exploration and consultancy, its junior mining minister said on Wednesday, adding both foreign and local firms were encouraged to participate.
Nigeria’s economy, one of Africa’s largest, has been built largely on its rich crude oil reserves, leaving other sectors to stagnate. In an attempt to diversify, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is now seeking to build up other sectors, including mining, though results have been mixed, according to economic data.
“Today the Federal Executive Council (Nigeria’s cabinet) approved the contract for exploration and consultancy on some of our targeted minerals - like gold, industrial minerals, earth metals, iron ore - for four companies in exploration and four companies in consultancy,” Abubakar Bawa Bwari, the minister of state for solid minerals, told reporters after the cabinet meeting.
Bwari said the exploration and consultancy work would result in data that would encourage potential mining firms to invest in Nigeria.
“Our major challenge is the bankable data, most mining companies will not want to come into your country when they are not sure of what they are going to meet,” he said. ($1 = 305.2000 naira) (Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans)