In late October, the Miners Association of Nigeria held its first Mining Week summit, part of the country’s attempts to jump-start its promising but seriously neglected and underperforming mining sector. The summit hosted local miners, junior and senior mining operators, exploration firms, local and international investors and Nigerian government officials, all focused on re-establishing Nigeria as a global mining hub.
Nigeria’s expansive mineral wealth is no secret. During British colonial rule, which ended in 1960, the country ranked among the world’s top producers of tin. Later geological surveys in the 1970s, which were recently updated between 2003 and 2010, helped identify vast reserves of over 40 solid minerals, precious metals, stones and industrial minerals, including gold, iron ore, lithium, limestone, barite and columbite. The discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta in the 1950s, however, and the disastrous civil war in the Biafra region of modern-day southern Nigeria, which raged from 1967 to 1970, all but ended a once-burgeoning mining sector.
Currently, Nigeria generates approximately 13 percent of its GDP from crude oil production, a lucrative sector that in part helped the country become Africa’s largest economy in 2014. In contrast, Nigeria’s mining sector contributed just 0.3 percent to its GDP in 2015, a substantial shortcoming compared to 4 to 5 percent in the early 1960s. It contributed less than 1 percent to the GDP each year between 1984 and 2015. Mining’s decline took root in the 1970s and lasted through the mid-1990s, the result of poor domestic policies, a focus on the oil sector, and a fall in foreign investments. The decades’ worth of damage to the mining sector has constrained efforts to revitalize the industry ever since.