Nigeria is endowed with numerous mineral resources. Recent policy reforms have brought the solid minerals sector to the fore. The emphasis is on encouraging massive foreign investors’ participation in this sector.
PROFILE OF SOLID MINERALS DEPOSITS IN NIGERIA
An estimated reserve of over 100 million tones of talc has been obtained in Niger, Osun, Kogi, Kwara, Ogun, Taraba and Kaduna States. There are only two medium size talc processing plants currently operating in Nigeria and both are located in Niger State. The color of the Nigerian talc varies from white through milky-white to gray. The talc industry represents one of the most versatile sectors of the industrial minerals of the world. The exploitation of the vast talc deposits in Nigeria would therefore satisfy not only local demands but also that of the international markets as well.
There are over 3 billion tones of iron ore found in kogi, Enugu, Niger, Zamfara and Kaduna States. Iron is currently being mined at Itakpe (Kogi State), which is more or less at the center of the region of crystalline iron deposits. The large deposit of oolitic iron ores of Kogi and Enugu States are yet to be fully explored. Itakpe iron ore is being beneficiated to 67% Fe. To feed Aladja and Ajaokuta Steel complexes. Besides there are three in-land rolling mills at Oshogbo, Jos and Katsina in addition to some privately owned rolling mills in Lagos and Kano.
There are proven reserves of both alluvial and primary deposits of gold with proven reserves in the shiest belt covering the western half of Nigeria. At present exploitation of alluvial deposits is being carried out mostly by artisan miners in a few places in the country. A number of primary deposits, which are sufficiently big for large scale mechanized mining, have been identified in the northwest and southwest parts of the county. Private investors are invited to stake concessions on these primary deposits. It is interesting to note that the primary deposits are of relatively high grade and at shallow depth. Production costs will easily be as low as about $50 per ounce.
The occurrence of Bitumen deposits in Nigeria is indicated at about 42 billion tones almost as twice the amount of existing reserves of crude petroleum. When fully developed, the industry will no doubt meet local requirements for road construction and also become a foreign exchange earner for the country.
The national demand for table salt, caustic soda, chlorine, sodium bicarbonate, sodium hypochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide exceeds one million tones. A colossal amount of money is expended annually to import these chemicals by various companies including tanneries, food beverages, paper and pulp, bottling and other industries including the oil companies. There are salt springs at Awe (Plateau State), Abakaliki (Enugu State) and Uburu (Imo State), while rock salt is available in Benue State. A total reserve of 1.5 billion tones has been indicated, and further investigations are now being carried out by government to ascertain the quantum of reserves.
Gypsum is an important imput for the production of cement. It is used for the production of Plaster of Paris (P.O.P) and classroom chalk, etc. A strategy for large-scale mining of gypsum used in the cement industries is urgently required to sustain existing plants and meet future expansion. Current cement production is put at 8 million tones per annum while the national requirement is 9.6 million tones. About one billion tones of gypsum deposits are spread over many states in Nigeria.
An estimated 10 million tons of lead/zinc veins are spread over eight States in Nigeria. Joint venture partners are encouraged to develop and exploit the various lead/zinc deposits all over the country.
BENTONITE AND BARYTE
These are the main constituents of the mud used in the drilling of all types of oil wells. The Nigerian baryte had specific gravity of about 4.3. Over 7.5 million tons of baryte 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 development and exploitation.
Nigerian Coal is one the most bituminous in the world owing to its low sulpur and ash content and therefore the most enviroment friendly. There are nearly 3.00 billion tonnes of indicated reserves in 17 identified coalfields and over 600 million tonnes of proven reserves.
Gemstone mining has boomed in various parts of Plateau, Kaduna and Bauchi States for years. Some of these gemstones include Sapphire, Ruby, Aguamarine, Emerald, Tourmaline, Topaz, Garnet, Amethyst, Zircon and Flourspar which are among the world’s best. Good prospects exists in this area for viable investments.
An estimated reserve of 3 billion tonnes of good kaolinitic clays has been identified.
Large deposits of Tantalite are known to occur in Nasarawa, Gombe and Kogi tates as well as the Federal Capital Territory. The deposits ar both alluvial and primary in the numerous pegmatite bodies that infest these ares. Grades of well over 50% Ta2O5 are found. Private investors are invited to stake concessions for the development and exploitation of tantalite in these areas.
Pelletisation of Coal for Domestic Use
Given the large deposits of brown coal in the tertiary sediments east and west of River Niger; Nigeria can cash in on foreign investors’ technology to produce coal pellets for industrial use, coal briquettes for domestic use; that is, to replace firewood.