Nigeria…the heartbeat of Africa, a country full of potential, rich in human and natural resources many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Unlike other countries blessed with as much resources, even less, Nigeria remains underdeveloped, crisis prone, corruption infested and crime overburdened. It is truly a wonder that with all these gifts, all these potentials, we are still eating scraps at the bottom of the table. Internationally, Nigeria is mostly known as a den of thieves and cut throats. This also makes one wonder if there is truly hope for the beating heart of Africa.
Perhaps there is…in the semi-forgotten mining industry that boasts of so much potential.
Mining activity is the extraction or removal of mineral deposits from the earth. As at 2014, extraction of natural resources in Nigeria accounted for only 0.14% of its gross domestic product [GDP], due to the influence of its vast amounts of hydrocarbon (crude oil) deposits, which is 10.44%. The domestic mining industry is underdeveloped, leading to Nigeria having to import minerals that it could produce locally. Privileges to ownership of mineral resources is held by the Federal government of Nigeria, which grants titles to establishments to explore, mine, and sell mineral resources.
In 1903, the British colonial government created the Mineral Survey of the Northern Protectorates, which kick-started organized mining activities. A year later, the Mineral Survey of the Southern Protectorates was founded. By the 1940s, Nigeria was a major producer of tin, columbite, and coal. The discovery of oil in 1956 hurt the mineral extraction industries, as government and industry both began to focus on this new resource. The Nigerian civil war which started in 1967 led many expatriate mining experts to leave the country. Historically, Nigeria’s mining industry was monopolized by state-owned public corporations. This led to a decline in productivity in almost all mineral industries. The Obasanjo administration began a process of selling off government owned corporations to private investors in 1999.
As at last count, the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development have found over five hundred locations of mineral deposit in the country, but only identify nine that they would want to concentrate on and promote. These include iron ore, coal, tin ore, bitumen, gold, columbite, tantalite, lead/zinc, wolframite and other industrial minerals. Nigeria is also blessed with different types of gemstones- emerald, garnet, ruby, sapphire, topaz, tourmaline, zircon, etc. All these present good and viable investments.
Nigeria has a long, painful and discontinuous history of mining and the country used to be a predominant exporter of tin, columbite and coal. Mining is administered through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development with Nigeria’s Minerals and Mining Act of 2007.
SOME MINERAL ESTIMATED RESERVES AND THEIR LOCATIONS
Coal: Nigerian coal is one of the most bituminous in the world owing to its low sulphur and ash content and therefore the most environment-friendly and most preferred form of coal. There are nearly 3 billion tonnes of indicated reserves in 17 identified coalfields and 600 million of proven reserves.
It can be located predominantly in Enugu and Kogi states.
Kaolin: an estimated reserve of 3 billion tonnes of excellent kaolin clay has been identified. It has been discovered in nearly every state. The Nigeria kaolin company has it major mining site in Bokkos, Plateau state.
Lead/Zinc: an estimated 10 million tonnes of lead/ zinc veins are spread over eight states of Nigeria: Abia, Abuja, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Gombe, Nasarrawa, and Plateau and probably more states.
Bentonite and Barite ore: though not commonly known, these are the main constituents of the mud used in the drilling of all types of oil wells.
Barite, together with other compounds is used as a weighing agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration to suppress high formation pressures and prevent blowouts. The Nigerian barite possesses a specific gravity of about 4.3.
Over 7.5 million tonnes of barite have been identified in Taraba and Bauchi states.
Large bentonite reserves of 700 million tonnes are available in many states of the federation ready for massive exploitation and development.
Gold: there are proven reserves of both alluvial and primary deposits of gold with proven reserves in the schist belt covering the western half of Nigeria. At present, exploitation is carried out mostly by artisan miners in a few areas in the country. A number of primary deposits, which are adequately big enough for large mechanized mining, have been identified in the north west and south west. The primary deposits are of relatively high grade and at shallow depth. Proven deposits have been discovered in Osun, Kwara, amongst others.
Bitumen: the occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is indicated at about 42 billion tonnes, almost twice the amount of existing reserves of crude oil. If fully developed, the industry will no doubt meet local requirements for road construction and also become a foreign exchange for Nigeria.
The above profiles of the listed minerals are just some of what Nigeria has in abundance and is in dire need to develop and solve an abundance of problems we face on a daily basis.
Here are some of the problems which the industry faces- Lack of information, illiteracy on the part of the miners, lack of technical know-how, lack of mining and processing plants, lack of access to funds, government policy direction, etc.
With the current government dispensation there have been some changes in regards to solid mineral mining. It is in the infancy level and thus requires a lot of investments. For individuals or organizations seeking to enter the industry there are two ways- by acquisition of existing mining property from the original owners (with approval from the ministry of solid minerals development for such purchase) and by obtaining on application.
With the huge mineral deposit possibilities in Nigeria, the solid mineral sector has the potential to be the next frontier of large foreign direct investment (FDI) in the next couple of years.
It is very possible if we would just appreciate the blessings Mother Earth has gifted us.
Indeed there is hope.