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Legal Framework for Solid Minerals in Nigeria


Nigeria, a country rich in diverse natural resources, is endowed with an array of solid minerals, including tin, gold, coal, iron ore, limestone, and others. These minerals offer significant potential for economic diversification and growth. The regulatory framework governing this sector is designed to ensure sustainable development, equitable distribution of benefits, and environmental protection, thus promoting a balanced approach to exploiting these resources.

Historical Context

Historically, mining in Nigeria began in the early 20th century with the extraction of tin from the Jos Plateau. The sector was a significant contributor to the economy until the discovery of oil in the 1950s, which shifted focus and investment towards petroleum. Consequently, the solid mineral sector experienced neglect. In recent years, there has been a strategic move towards revitalizing this sector as part of broader economic diversification efforts aimed at reducing dependency on oil revenues.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

  1. The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007

The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 (the “Mining Act”), serves as the cornerstone of the legal framework for solid minerals in Nigeria. It provides a comprehensive regime for the exploration and exploitation of solid minerals, replacing the Minerals and Mining Act of 1999. Key provisions of the Act include:

  • Ownership and Control: The Act vests control of all mineral resources in the Nigerian state, which holds these resources in trust for the people. This framework ensures that private individuals or companies do not own mineral resources but can obtain licenses or leases to explore and mine them.
  • Licensing Regime: The Act establishes a structured licensing regime, which includes:
    • Reconnaissance Permit: This permit allows holders to conduct preliminary surveying without the right to remove minerals.
    • Exploration License: Grants exclusive rights to explore for specific minerals within a designated area.
    • Mining Lease: Permits commercial extraction of minerals following successful exploration.
    • Small Scale Mining Lease: Intended to promote local entrepreneurship in the mining sector.
    • Quarry Lease: Grants the right to extract building materials.
  • Environmental and Social Obligations: The Act mandates rigorous environmental protection and rehabilitation measures. Companies are required to submit Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Community Development Agreements (CDAs), ensuring that mining activities benefit local communities and minimize environmental impact.
  1. The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulations, 2011

These regulations provide detailed guidelines for implementing the Mining Act, covering aspects such as:

  • Licensing procedures
  • Health and safety standards
  • Environmental management practices
  • Royalty and fee structures
  1. The Mining Cadastre Office (MCO)

The MCO is tasked with the administration of mineral titles, ensuring transparency and efficiency in the issuance and management of licenses. Operating on a “first come, first served” basis, the MCO maintains a comprehensive database of all mining titles in Nigeria.

Institutional Framework

Several institutions are involved in regulating and promoting the solid minerals sector:

  • Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD): The primary government body responsible for policy formulation and implementation related to mining and solid minerals.
  • Mining Cadastre Office (MCO): Manages the grant and administration of mining titles, ensuring transparency and accountability.
  • Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA): Provides geoscientific information to support mineral exploration.
  • Nigerian Mining Corporation (NMC): Engaged in the commercial development of Nigeria’s mineral resources.

Challenges in the Sector

Despite a robust legal framework, the solid minerals sector in Nigeria faces several significant challenges:

  • Illegal Mining: Unregulated mining activities result in substantial revenue loss and environmental degradation.
  • Funding and Investment: Limited access to capital stifles growth and development within the sector.
  • Infrastructure Deficit: Inadequate infrastructure, especially in remote mining areas, affects the transportation and processing of minerals.
  • Regulatory Enforcement: Weak enforcement of existing regulations undermines sustainable mining practices and adherence to environmental and social standards.

Government Initiatives

The Nigerian government has launched various initiatives to address these challenges and promote the solid minerals sector:

  • Roadmap for the Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Industry: Introduced in 2016, this roadmap outlines strategic objectives to transform the mining sector into a significant contributor to the economy.
  • Mining Sector Support for Economic Diversification (MinDiver) Project: Funded by the World Bank, this project aims to enhance the mining sector’s contribution to the economy through improved governance, infrastructure development, and investment promotion.
  • Establishment of Mining Clusters: Developing clusters to provide shared infrastructure and services for small-scale miners, thereby promoting efficiency and economies of scale.
  • Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF): This fund aims to provide financial assistance for the exploration and development of solid minerals, ensuring access to funding for local miners and entrepreneurs.

Environmental and Social Considerations

A critical aspect of the regulatory framework is the emphasis on environmental sustainability and social responsibility. The Mining Act and accompanying regulations require mining companies to:

  • Conduct Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs): These assessments evaluate the potential environmental impacts of mining activities and outline measures to mitigate adverse effects.
  • Prepare Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation Plans (EPRPs): Companies must develop plans for protecting and rehabilitating the environment during and after mining operations.
  • Implement Community Development Agreements (CDAs): These agreements ensure that mining activities contribute to the socio-economic development of local communities. They typically include commitments to infrastructure development, employment opportunities, and social services.

International Cooperation and Partnerships

Nigeria actively seeks international cooperation and partnerships to enhance the development of its solid minerals sector. Collaborations with foreign governments, international organizations, and private investors provide:

  • Technical Expertise: Partnerships bring advanced technology and expertise to improve mining operations and productivity.
  • Investment: Foreign investment is crucial for funding large-scale mining projects and developing infrastructure.
  • Capacity Building: Training and development programs enhance the skills of local miners and regulatory officials.


The solid minerals sector in Nigeria holds significant potential for economic development and diversification. The legal and regulatory framework, anchored by the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, provides a solid foundation for sustainable mineral exploration and exploitation. However, effective implementation and enforcement of these laws, coupled with addressing sectoral challenges, are crucial for unlocking the full potential of Nigeria’s solid minerals industry. Through continued government initiatives, international partnerships, and a commitment to sustainable practices, Nigeria can harness its mineral wealth to drive long-term economic growth and development.


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