Mineral resources are the natural resources which cannot be renewed. They are present in the organisms as an organic and inorganic molecule and ions. The calcium, phosphorous, sodium, chlorine and sulphur are the major minerals in the animals. The minor minerals in the animals are iron, copper, cobalt, zinc, fluorine and selenium. The minerals in the plants are divided into the macro and micro nutrients. The macro nutrients consist of calcium, magnesium, sulphur and iron. The micro nutrients consist of manganese, cobalt, zinc and chlorine.
The minerals are present everywhere in the world. Their distribution varies from one country to the other. They are non equal in the distribution. India is rich in coal, manganese, iron, chromites and mica. It is deficient in the gold, silver, nickel etc. In the North America there is an abundance of molybdenum but it is deficient in the tin, manganese. However these deficient metals are found in abundance in the Indonesia and Malaysia.
The gold and uranium occurs in good abundance at the South Africa but it has a deficiency of silver and iron. The most common fertilizers in India are the NPK. India depends on the other countries for its supply. Our country is in deficiency of the petroleum and electrical energy. The raw material is also deficient. New projects are undertaken to explore the new opportunities of energy. If we move at the present rate most of the important metals will last only in this century. However, some of them like manganese, aluminum, cobalt, iron and chromium can work till 2500 A.D.
The minerals must be conserved and should be recycled regularly. They must be used as a raw material where there is a major need. They must be explored regularly. They must be substituted and new techniques must be used to prevent its loss.
SIGNIFICANCE OF MINERAL RESOURCES IN THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY
The concept of a "resource" is a human-centered concept. In order for something to be considered a resource, it must be perceived to have value by humans. This is why we can talk about changes in the use, meaning, and distribution of resources in particular environments. While some resources like water remain fairly stable in their use and valuing, others, like forests, may change a great deal. These changes are related to many different factors. Not least of these is technology. Human societies develop new ways of reshaping the surface and materials on and near the earth. New inventions are created and diffused from one place to another. New uses of raw materials and fuels are devised. All of these processes reveal that human societies, including that of Nigeria, are ever changing in their relationship with the environment. Another important dimension of resources is level of economic development.
The way that Nigerians use and perceive resources varies internally. Nigerians’ use of resources also differs from that of the world’s developed countries. This essay provides a glimpse at some of the ways that resources are distributed, used, and perceived within Nigerian society. In the interest of brevity, the discussion focuses on several key resources, namely, water, forests, minerals, and soils.
Water is a resource that is needed by all humans and most other forms of life. Water is so crucial to humans that it often influences human settlement patterns. Nigeria is a country that receives a relatively high level of annual precipitation. As other sections have emphasized, however, rainfall is not distributed evenly through time or space. Large seasonal variation in rainfall exists, as well as large regional variation in rainfall. Because of these variations in time and space, people in different parts of Nigeria use water in different ways. For example, in the drier northern parts of Nigeria where rainfall is lower and less evenly distributed throughout the year, efforts have been made to develop irrigation. Irrigation development has involved many different kinds of dams, from large electricity-producing dams to smaller dams used mainly for field irrigation.
While irrigation is important in a few parts of the country, the vast majority of people use water mainly for day-to-day household activities like cooking, drinking, and washing. In a relatively well-watered country like Nigeria, one would think that acquiring water would not be a problem. Providing safe, abundant supplies of household water is not a simple task, however. In a poor country like Nigeria, gaining access to safe, continuous water supplies is an ongoing challenge for many. Human wastes and pollution make many water supplies unsafe for many people. In addition, the state has been unable to provide safe, affordable water. This is particularly true in rural areas. In many rural areas, women and girls are forced to walk long distances to acquire household water. In extreme cases, women and children may spend from two to three hours per day gathering water. It goes without saying that most rural households do not have their own pipe-borne water supply. In the best of circumstances, small villages or neighborhoods will have their own wells. While water supply is somewhat better in urban areas, major challenges still remain. In cities without a functioning public water system, individual households and groups of households must either drill their own well or purchase their water. The proliferation of small urban wells is not an optimum solution, however. There is no guarantee that the water drawn from these wells is safe for drinking. Without adequate sanitation facilities, household wastes filter into the city’s underground water supply.
Access to safe water is a critical factor in Nigerian public health. This is why the poor state of Nigeria’s water supply is so important. The most damaging drinking water-borne illnesses are typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea. Other human diseases are spread merely through contact with contaminated water. Bathing water illnesses include bilharzia (another name for schistosomiasis), guinea worm, and roundworm. Drinking and bathing are not the only methods through which water-borne illnesses are spread. Contaminated water is often used to wash foods like fruits and vegetables. This often provides another channel for diseases to spread.
Besides immediate household use, water is an important resource for transportation and electricity generation. With respect to the latter, Nigeria produces approximately one-half of all its electricity through hydro-dams.
The Kainji Dam in west-central Nigeria is the source of most of this hydroelectricity. While this is an impressive relative figure, Nigerian electricity consumption is low by international standards. Thus, many Nigerians are still without electricity or do not rely heavily on electricity for their energy needs. In terms of transportation, Nigeria’s rivers play an important role in the country’s transportation system. Because Nigeria is a relatively well-watered country, it has an abundance of rivers. It should be noted, however, that the flow of rivers fluctuates seasonally, depending on both regional rainfall regime and human uses of river water (e.g. irrigation, dams). The two major rivers of Nigeria are the Niger and its primary Nigerian tributary, the Benue.
The Niger River is the major river for all of West Africa, rising in the Guinea Highlands 4200 km upstream from its mouth. Because of substantial water loss upstream, however, the Niger is not as large as one might imagine by the time it reaches Nigeria. This reality hinders the use of the Niger as an all-season West African transportation artery. Nevertheless, the Niger-Benue system is of substantial importance to Nigeria. "The large volume of water [in the lower part of the Niger], particularly between June and November when it is in flood, the steady gradient of its valley, and the fact that it flows through rich agricultural lands, make it of great importance for transport."
- The place of oil in the Nigerian economy: United States Energy Information Administration. Oil industry profile from Mbendi. Nigeria is also an OPEC member. The following is a fact sheet on OPEC. OPEC’s homepage. Shell Oil Nigeria homepage.
- Nigeria is also a major supplier of oil to the United States. For information on U.S. energy consumption and production see the United States Energy Information Agency.
- The following maps from Shell Oil can serve as a potentially interesting case study on the propaganda of maps and the critical evaluation of cartographic materials. Here is the main Shell map index. For example, examine the bright, cheerful color choices for the following map showing ecological zones of the Niger Rive delta. Also, note the way Shell uses its own colors in its simple reference map of Nigeria and its neighbors. How do these colors affect the viewer’s perceptions of Shell’s activities in Nigeria? Consider this question in light of the environmental degradation and conflict that has occurred in the oil-producing regions of the Niger Delta (see standards 14 and 16 for more information).
- Many sites on the web deal with Ken SaroWiwa and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). This movement is both political and environmental in its nature. A film entitled "The Drilling Fields" (1994) provides a critique of the oil industry in the delta and discusses the Ogoni political response. The site provides the script of the film, pictures, and ordering information for the film.
- The Sierra Club page on Shell in Nigeria provides many articles and links (the most recent listing is 01 / 99). Also, see the Greenpeace international page on Nigeria and the Niger Delta. Ken SaroWiwa’s final statement before the military tribunal. Boycott Shell devoted site. Human Rights Watch page on Nigeria’s oil fields. Information on the oil fires of 1998 and 1999.
- Tin mining pictures: "informal mining" and more tin mining.
EXAMPLES ASSOCIATED WITH MINERAL EXPLOITATION IN NIGERIA
Gold deposits are found in western Nigeria, most prominently near Maru, Anka, Malele, Tsohon Birnin Gwari-Kwaga, Gurmana, Bin Yauri, Okolom-Dogondaji, and Iperindo in Kwara State.
Gold production began in 1913 and peaked in the 1930s. During the Second World War, production declined. Mines were abandoned by colonial companies, and production never recovered.
The Nigerian Mining Corporation (NMC) was formed in the early 1980s to explore for gold. Lack of funds, and the lure of easier profits from oil production led to its failure. There is no large scale gold mining operation in Nigeria today, though there is small-scale mining carried out by artists. The family of Aleye from Anka is one of the leading gold families in the region.
2. Columbite and Tantalite
Columbite and Tantalite are ores used to produce the elements niobium and tantalum. Columbite and tantalite are collectively known as coltan in Africa. Tantalum is a valuable rare element used in electronics manufacturing. In Nigeria, pegmatite deposits of coltan are frequently also the source of several precious and semi-precious stones such as beryl, aquamarine, and tourmaline. These pegmatites are found in Nassarawa State near the Jos Plateau, as well as in several areas in southeast Nigeria. There is small-scale mining of these minerals.
Bitumen was first discovered in 1900, with focused exploration beginning in 1905. Bitumen deposits are found in Lagos State, Ogun State, Ondo State, and Edo State. Conoco has performed a technical and economic evaluation of these deposits, and believes there to be over thirteen billion barrels of oil in these tar sands and bitumen seepages.
4. Iron Ore
Nigeria has several deposits of iron ore, but the purest deposits are in and around Itakpe in Kogi State.
The National Iron Ore Mining Company was founded in 1979 and given the mission to explore, exploit, process, and supply iron ore concentrate to the Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASCL) in Ajaokuta and Delta Steel Company (DCL) in Aladja. Additional demand has come from several steel rolling mills. The company and its mining operations are based in Kogi State. Export of excess iron ore beyond what is required for domestic needs is currently being explored. Additionally, the Nigerian government has invested in foreign iron ore operations in Guinea. 3
5. Coal, Lignite and Coke
The Nigerian Coal Corporation (NCC) is a parastatal corporation that was formed in 1950 and held a monopoly on the mining, processing, and sales of coal, lignite, and coke products until 1999.
Coal was first discovered in Enugu in 1909, and the Ogbete Mine had opened and begun regularly extracting coal by 1916. By 1920, coal production had reached 180,122 long tons (183,012 t). Nigeria's peak coal production was in the late 1950s, and by 1960 production was at 565,681 long tons (574,758 t). The Nigerian Civil War caused many mines to be abandoned. After the war ended in the early 1970s, coal production was never able to recover. Attempts to mechanize the industry in the 1970s and 1980s were ultimately unsuccessful, and actually hindered production due to problems with implementation and maintenance.
The Nigerian government is currently trying to privatize the Nigerian Coal Corporation and sell off its assets. While the domestic market for coal has been negatively affected by the move to diesel and gas-powered engines by organizations that were previously major coal consumers, the low-sulfur coal mined in Nigeria is desirable by international customers in Italy and the United Kingdom, who have imported Nigerian coal. Recent financial problems have caused a near shutdown of the NCC's coal mining operations, and the corporation has responded by attempting to sell off some of its assets while it waits for the government to complete privatization activities.
In April 2008, Minister of Mines and Steel Sarafa Tunji Ishola announced that Nigeria was considering coal as an alternative power source as it attempts to reform its power sector, and encouraged Chinese investors to invest in the coal industry.
WAYS OF MINERAL RESOUCES EXPLOITATION
If one wants to understand the future supply of mineral resources, one must consider their supply and demand cycle. This cycle is driven primarily by the price of the commodity, although it should be noted that other aspects, such as increased environmental awareness and concern, are playing an increasingly important role. It also is essential to consider these cycles in connection with one further resource—human creativity. Discovery of new reserves may be viewed as only a temporary possible solution to mineral resource sustainability. Under rule 2 of the Enquete Commission, a number of other potential solutions to sustainability of nonrenewable resources are emphasized and rely on human creativity. Examples for mineral resources include :
1. Finding new substitutes.—The effect of rising prices as a driving force on finding new solutions to mineral resource sustainability is well demonstrated by the cobalt supply shortage resulting from the political Shaba crisis in Zaire in 1978. This crisis caused the price of cobalt to skyrocket. Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the world’s largest cobalt producer. In 1976, the German Government commissioned a study to analyze what effect a shortfall of 30 percent of a commodity would have on industry. For chromium and cobalt, which were considered very difficult to replace with substitutes, it was found that about 6 million jobs would be affected. However, this study totally underestimated the flexibility of industry to react to drastic price rises. Shortly after the price rise, new substitutes (ferrites) were invented, replacing cobalt in permanent magnets and thereby totally changing the consumption pattern for cobalt (Wellmer and Becker-Platen, 2001).
2. Improving recycling.—What is the aim of recycling? Is it to make maximum use of the secondary material per se, or is it to minimize environmental impact (for example, by reducing energy input and thus CO2 emissions)? Most people would agree that it should be the latter. Consequently, the optimum solution may not be to recycle 100 percent of the secondary raw material (Wellmer and Becker-Platen, 2001). Take aluminum as an example.
Substitution of one raw material for another, such as plastics or concrete for metals, occurs constantly in industry and is driven by economics. However, substitution also can be driven by efforts to promote sustainable development. The next lower value category consists of those mineral resources whose deposits are created by natural enrichment (for example, metalliferous deposits and some nonmetallic deposits like phosphate and barite). The next lower level consists of bulk raw materials such as those used in construction and those whose availability from the geological point of view is unlimited in the Earth’s crust. Also included are materials such as magnesium and potassium, which are present in practically unlimited quantities in the oceans and may be considered essentially as renewable resources. At the base of the hierarchy are the waste products and residues from beneficiation or burning of higher value resources. An example is ash from coal-fired powerplants, which can be used for making cement, thereby replacing primary cement raw materials. Lower value resources should always substitute for higher value ones.
As the examples in this essay have shown, resource use is subject to many different influences. Distribution of environmental elements like water, forests, and soil is one important factor in resource use. Another important factor is level of socioeconomic development. Several of the examples discussed above contrast sharply with resource conceptions and resource use in developed countries. One of the clearest examples is that of fuelwood. The roles of the state, foreign companies, population change, and culture were also discussed at different points in the essay. Because of the number of diverse factors listed here, it is clear that understanding humans and Nigerians’ use and conceptualization of resources is never a simple task.
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