News Tower Magazine

Oct 31, 2011

History of Mining in Plateau State, Nigeria

Mineral exploitation in Plateau State is an age-old industry, starting from the pre-colonial extraction and marketing of tin from the upper Plateau to salt and lead-zinc in the lower Plateau that includes some parts of Nassarawa State. Officers of the Niger Royal Company were credited with locating tin deposits of Jos Plateau which and marked the inception of modern mining activities in Nigeria. Foreign metal merchants, mostly British, followed the tin trade route from the North African markets into Nigeria to Plateau where an aggressive and prosperous tin mining industry was established. Subsequently, the multinational companies, which dominated the industry, were joined by small local companies. While the foreign companies congregated under powerful chambers of mines, the local miners formed themselves under a less powerful organization called the “Association of African Miners.”
The tin trade boomed to the detriment of other minerals in the state. There was then the dominance of Nigerian mining activities by British companies with the backing of British banking service and supplies. At the peak of mining, there were up to 120 companies operating. Then, mining was exclusively a private sector affair. During this time, it came to a point that Nigeria was the sixth world producer of tin with a production of 16 000 tones per annum and world’s leading producer of columbite.
The Association of African Miners became heavily handicapped by a myriad of problems, ranging from lack of necessary expertise to a dearth of capital and hence the necessary equipment required for efficient performance in the field. With the aforementioned, the multinational companies piled up and repatriated huge profits while their African counterparts performed sluggishly, resorting sometimes to unorthodox practices but still managing to record success, which sometimes was questionable. The tin mining industry was swept off the Nigerian economic scene by the so-called oil boom.
During this period the government concerned itself with providing the enabling environment and necessary infrastructure in the mines field and collected royalties, rents and related rates which before the mid-fifties were collected by the Niger Royal Company. Before the takeover of the collection, the Nigerian Government has to pay an all lump compensation to United African Company (UAC). Mining operations were effectively monitored by the mines division of the then Ministry of Mines and Power to ensure compliance with the operational and safety guidelines.
In 1972 the government indigenization degree led to the compulsory acquisition of controlling shares in the foreign companies. The foreigners then lost interest in mining operations. The activities of the companies declined slowly until they finally left the mining scene in the early eighties. This led to the merger of major companies to form what is today known as Consolidated Tin Mines (CTM). CTM could not work with the obsolete machineries left behind by the expatriates. The result now is a company struggling to survive. In Zurak area of Wase LGC, some mining of lead/zinc deposits were also carried out and later abandoned. There was molybdenite mine at Kigom Hills near Riyom LGC which could not make any progress.
Also in 1972, the Nigerian Mining Corporation with headquarters in Jos was established to embark on exploitation of industrial minerals. The corporation discovered barytes at Azara in the present Nassarawa State and also established a barytes mine at the locality. This led to the discovery of the same mineral in Langtang South. Kaolin was also discovered at Kuba on the Barkin Ladi- Bokkos road and exploitation commenced in 1988.

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