Article Sections


The mining of minerals in Nigeria accounts for only 0.3% of its GDP, due to the influence of its vast oil resources. The domestic mining industry is underdeveloped, leading to Nigeria having to import minerals that it could produce domestically, such as salt or iron ore. Rights to ownership of mineral resources is held by the Nigerian government, which grants titles to organizations to explore, mine, and sell mineral resources.

Organized mining began in 1903 when the Mineral Survey of the Northern Protectorates was created by the British colonial government. 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 in the late 1960s led many expatriate mining experts to leave the country.

Mining regulation is handled by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, which oversees the management of all mineral resources. Mining law is codified in the  Minerals and Mining Act of 12007. 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.

Lead and zinc ores are usually found together. They occur in commercial quantities in the Benue Trough, Bauchi and Nassarawa States  in a narrow belt over 560 km stretching from Ishiagu in the south-east to Bauchi State. Small-scale mining has been carried out in Abakaliki area, where significant  reserves have been estimated. Other major lead-zinc occurrences are at Ameka, Ameri in Ebonyi State, Arufu and Zurak in Taraba State and both Nassarawa and Bauchi. However, lead-zinc mining in Nigeria has been rather intermittent. There are however a number of Chinese mining operations in Northern Nigeria.

Nigeria is endowed with vast reserves of solid minerals, including, but not limited to, precious metals, stones and industrial minerals. The country was a major exporter of tin, columbite and coal in the early 1970s. However, activities in this sector nose-dived considerably when crude oil production began to take the centre stage, and became a major source of foreign exchange for the country.

With the return to democracy in 1999, the need to diversify the revenue base of the country became paramount. A new national focus and strategy on, mining evolved such that in 2007, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (the Act) was enacted to revitalize the Nigerian mining industry.

There are over 40 different types of minerals spread across the country, including gold, bentonite, limestone, coal, bitumen, iron ore, tantalite / columbite, lead/zinc, barites, gemstones,granite, marble, gypsum, talc, iron ore, lead, lithium, silver, etc. However, not all the minerals are available in commercial quantities. As part of the strategies to reform the sector, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) has identified seven (7) strategic minerals, namely, Coal, Bitumen, Limestone, Iron Ore, Barites, Gold and Lead/Zinc for priority development as further discussed below.