Do you think solid minerals can sustain the economy like crude oil?
Before oil became the mainstay of the economy in the mid-1970s, solid minerals and agricultural commodities accounted for almost all of the country’s exports. The tin mines of the central plateau region around the city of Jos, and the coal mines around the southern city of Enugu had been opened up by the late 19th Century. But tin production is now down to a trickle, while coal exports slumped from a peak of 3.2 million tones a year in the 1970s to nothing within two decades as successive administrations focused on the oil boom of the 1970s and early1980s.
Proven reserves of good quality coal low in sulphur and ash are put at 2.75 billion tones. Deposit of iron ore is estimated to exceed three billion tones. Bitumen reserves, put at over four billion tones are nearly double the known reserve crude oil while the deposits of gold and other gemstones, including sapphire, aquamarine, emeralds, topaz, tourmaline, citrine, amethyst etc are said to occur in viable commercial quantities in different parts of the country. We have industrial minerals, such as barites, bitumen, kaolin, gypsum, salt and iron ore, among others that could bring substantial foreign earnings.