Historical Background of the Nigeria Solid Mineral Sector
Organised mining activities in Nigeria started with the commissioning in 1903 and 1904 of the mineral surveys of the Southern and Northern Protectorates by the then British Secretary of State for the colonies. Modern mining of tin ore (cassiterite and associated minerals) was initiated by the Royal Niger Company in 1905. The mining of gold began in 1914 in areas located within the present day Niger and Kogi States. Coal mining began at Enugu in 1916. By 1919, the Geological Survey of Nigeria (GSN) was established department of government to take over and continue mineral surveys of the country .
By 1930, the first permanent headquarters of GSN was set up in Kaduna with a satellite office in Jos in order to speed up its activities in the tin fields.
The Minerals Ordinance of 1946 and the Coal Ordinance No. 29 of 1950 provided the legal basis for the development of Solid Mineral in Nigeria. The former vested ownership of all minerals in the British Crown. It provides that “the entire property in land and control of minerals and mineral oils, in or under or upon any lands in Nigeria, and of rivers, streams and water courses throughout Nigeria, is and shall be vested in the state”. The Minister of Mines and Power (now Minister of Solid Minerals Development) was empowered to grant prospecting and mining rights and leases to individuals and or corporate organizations on application and payment of appropriate fees
Apart from coal which was mined by a government department, the mining of minerals and metals was entirely in the hands of private expatriate and indigenous companies and entrepreneurs.
Prior to 1971, British mining companies dominated the scene with up to 120 companies at the peak of tin mining. These companies were well equipped. They employed qualified staff and paid detailed attention to efficiency considerations. This led to high levels of output and significant contribution to employment. The Minerals Ordinance of 1946 and Allied Regulations which were re-enacted as the Minerals Act of 1959 applied globally to the exploration and exploitation of minerals without any particular distinction to special sets of minerals singly or in groups. However, as years passed, the development of mining particular minerals necessitated special regulations and led to the enactment of special Acts to govern the exploitation of special minerals. Such Acts included the Nigerian Coal mining Act of 1950, the Gold and Diamond Trading Act, the Explosives Act of 1964, the Tin Act No. 25 of 1967, and the Quarries Act and Allied Regulations of 1969.
In 1971 the government policy on minerals and metals was drastically reviewed. The Nigerian Government decided to act as a catalyst in the mining sector through the establishment of mining corporations which would use public funds for mining. The main policy thrust was the rejection of the concept of private-sector-led development of the solid mineral sector. The Government’s position was that the primary objective of mining policy should be to secure the development, conservation, and utilisation of the mineral resources of Nigeria in the best possible manner so as to bring about economic benefit for the largest possible period, and that there was no reason to suppose that the private investor was the best instrument with which to achieve the objective. The conclusion was that if prospecting and exploitation of minerals were to remain solely in the private sector, the country would be at a disadvantage.
To achieve the objectives of the new policy, a government which had hitherto refrained from direct participation decided to participate directly in the mining industry. It established the Nigerian mining Corporation (NMC) in 1972 to engage in direct investment in the exploitation of known economically viable minerals other than coal and marble. Through subsidiaries, the NMC engaged in the exploitation of kaolin, barytes, cassiterite, columbite, limestone and clays.
The Nigerian Coal Corporation (NCC) was responsible for mining coal. Later the Nigerian Uranium mining Company (NUMCO) was incorporated to mine and develop uranium. The Government also exercised control and direct involvement in the sector through a number of institutions including the Nigerian Iron Ore mining Company (NIOMCO) for iron ore mining at Itakpe, the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency (NSRMEA) which concentrates on exploration of iron ore and coking coals, and the National Metallurgical Development Centre (NMDC) whose focus is on research in mineral processing and downstream utilization studies on minerals.
The Indigenisation policy of government (Indigenisation Decree of 1972) also resulted in the acquisition of 60% shares in the major expatriate tin mining companies on the Plateau, causing large scale withdrawal of foreign investment in the industry and a downturn in production. With the exit of multinational companies and their expatriate professionals, the bulk of mining operations by the private sector rested on the shoulders of small-scale indigenous miners (This was also the period the solid mineral sector began to suffer neglect from the government). The surface, near the surface and shallow depth deposits of the minerals had by then been variably depleted. These factors were largely responsible for production decline, particularly in the metallic minerals. As a consequence, there was a shift in the tempo of mining activities to industrial non-metallic minerals needed for construction, building and industrial application for domestic industries. The downturn of the country’s economy also adversely affected the exploration as well as the exploitation of even the non-metallic minerals.
The Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Mines and Power (as it was then known) was ill-equipped and lacked adequate and suitable manpower to carry out surveillance of the minefields with a view to ensuring compliance with safety standards and to man the exit points to identify mineral commodities being exported. Illegal mining and speculative pegging by legal title holders were rife. These problems were further compounded by administrative bottlenecks which included a cumbersome procedure in
processing mining applications leading to long delays, difficulties in obtaining consent to enter land for the purpose of prospecting and mining, and procedural reports necessary for the approval of applications. Despite the heavy public expenditure involved in sustaining government’s involvement in the sector, the expected economic advantages that informed the 1971 review of mining policy were never realized.
The Nigerian Government commenced the development of the iron and steel industry in 1971 after over a decade of planning during which detailed market studies and investigations on local availability of raw materials were carried out, in addition to the examination of several proposals from foreign contractors from the UK, US, Germany, Canada & the former Soviet Union. The establishment of the now defunct Nigerian Steel Development Authority (NSDA) in 1971 through Decree No. 19 marked the institutional take-off point for the development of the Nigerian Steel Industry. According to the decree, the NSDA was charged with the responsibility for:
i. The construction, operation, and maintenance of national iron and steel plants in such a place or places in Nigeria as the Federal Military Government may require;
ii. The procurement of materials for the construction, operation and maintenance of the plant or plants in question; and
iii. The development of the application and use of iron and steel generally.
The functions of the NSDA were extensive, covering technical and economic feasibility studies for iron and steel production, coordination of mining operations and other activities needed to obtain raw materials, construction of steel plants, training of managerial and technical staff for operating the plants and conducting research and development in the technology and other aspects of iron and steel production, and in the application of iron and steel products, among other functions.
The NSDA commissioned and mandated the TiajpromExport (TPE) of the Soviet Union in 1973 to prepare the preliminary project report (PPR) for the proposed first integrated iron and steel plant in the country. This report was submitted in November 1974 recommending the Blast Furnace process route based on Itakpe iron ore concentrate with a blend of local or imported coal. The site location of Ajaokuta was selected due to proximity to the iron ore deposits and the River Niger.
This report was finally accepted in 1975 after several modifications and consequently, the Detailed Project Reports (DPR) was submitted in 1977 and accepted in 1978. The Global Contract for the construction and erection works between the NSDA and the TPE was signed in July 1979 to signal the beginning of project execution that eventually commenced in 1981.
The NSDA was dissolved in 1979 through Decree No. 60 on the 18th of September 1979. This decree also created the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL), Delta Steel Company (DSC) as well as the 3 inland rolling mills. By this new decree, the execution of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant became the principal responsibility of the ASCL. Although the DSC and the Inland Rolling mills have been completed, the Ajaokuta Steel Project remains incomplete and has become a symbol of Nigeria’s failures in the development of the metals sub-sector.
Although the construction and erection works have been completed since 1994, the raw materials and infrastructure for their transportation to the steel plant are not yet available. Inconsistent government policies, poorly thought-out government interventions, undue political interference, corruption, and management incompetence has bedeviled the project and indeed the entire sub-sector as all the public steel projects have grossly underperformed despite a massive injection of public funds.
The issues in this subsector have since become intractable leading to the decision by the Federal Government to privatize the publicly owned steel companies in 2003. The privatization efforts have however yielded little or no benefits and have recently hit a brick wall with the termination of concessions agreements entered into for ASCL and NIOMCO. Growth in this sector is currently stagnated as DSC and the three inland rolling mills are currently not functional even as privately held companies.
Immediately after independence, the autonomy of Geological Survey of Nigeria was withdrawn and it became administered since then as a Department under the supervision of various Ministries. The Department first came under the Ministry of Mines, Power and Lagos Affairs and later at various times under:
1. Ministry of Mines and Power- up to 1984
2. Ministry of Mines, Power and Steel 1984 -1989; and
3. Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, 1989 -1995
4. Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, 1995-2001
5. Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, 2001-2015
6. Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, 2015-date.