An insight into Nigerian copper mining business

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By Our Correspondent

 Copper prices rallied Friday above $10,000 per tonne for the first time in two years, propelled by soaring global demand and tight supplies. In early morning trade on the London Metal Exchange, the price of copper breached the key level for the first time since April 2022 to peak at just over $10,028. It later stood at $9,992.50 per tonne. The base metal is in the spotlight after mining giant BHP launched a $38.8-billion takeover bid for British rival Anglo American, in an audacious move to create the world’s biggest listed copper producer. However, Anglo American on rejected the offer as too low, slamming it as “highly unattractive” and “opportunistic”.

Copper is currently experiencing a demand boom on the back of its diverse uses in the renewable energy transition, from electric vehicles to solar panels and wind turbines. The metal faces additional upward pressure from other factors including strikes, geopolitical tensions and increasing regulation. Back in March 2022, copper had scored a record high of $10,845 per tonne in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

And so, you are welcome to Nigeria, a country known for its vibrant culture, diverse landscapes, and now, its hidden treasures: copper mines. Nestled within the heart of this captivating nation lies a wealth of history waiting to be discovered. Join us as we embark on an exhilarating adventure through the richness of copper mines in Nigeria – unearthing stories that have been buried deep beneath the earth’s surface for centuries. From stunning geological formations to tales of resilience and triumph, prepare to be captivated by the untold wonders that lie within these hallowed grounds. So grab your pickaxe and buckle up; it’s time to explore Nigeria’s hidden gem – its copper mines!

Copper is a versatile and highly sought-after metal that has been used for centuries in various industries, including construction, electronics, and transportation. It is known for its high conductivity, malleability, and resistance to corrosion, making it an essential component in many modern technologies. Nigeria, also known as the “Giant of Africa,” is home to vast untapped mineral resources. Among these resources are significant deposits of copper ore found in different parts of the country. The mining and production of copper in Nigeria have helped boost its economy and contribute significantly to its GDP.

The exploration of copper mines in Nigeria dates back to the early 20th century when British colonialists discovered large deposits of the metal in Jos, Plateau State. Since then, several other areas such as Gombe, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Kano, Kebbi have been identified as potential sources of copper ore.

One notable feature of copper mining in Nigeria is that it is primarily artisanal and small-scale. This means that most operations are carried out by individuals or small groups without extensive mechanization or industrialization. As such, the process involves traditional techniques like panning and digging rather than sophisticated machinery.

Despite being largely artisanal, copper mining in Nigeria has shown promising growth over the years due to government support through policies aimed at promoting the sector’s development. This support has led to increased investments from both local and international investors seeking opportunities within this lucrative industry.

The history of copper mining in Nigeria dates back to the pre-colonial era when it was an important source of wealth and power for many indigenous communities. The natural abundance of this valuable mineral in several regions of the country made it a highly sought-after commodity, attracting trade and commerce from other parts of Africa and beyond.

One of the earliest recorded evidence of copper mining in Nigeria can be traced back to the 15th century, during the reign of the Benin Empire. The Oba (king) and his subjects were known for their skilled craftsmanship in working with copper, producing intricate pieces such as sculptures, ornaments, and weapons that were highly prized by neighbouring kingdoms.

Copper mining in Nasarawa State


As European explorers arrived on Nigerian shores in the 16th century, they also discovered large deposits of copper ore in different regions such as Zamfara, Kogi, Plateau, Bauchi, and Nasarawa. This led to an increase in trade between Europeans and local rulers who controlled access to these mines.

The demand for copper continued to rise during the colonial era as it became an essential material for industrialization. British companies such as Royal Niger Company and United Africa Company began investing heavily in mining operations across Nigeria. These companies used forced labour from local communities to extract copper ore from deep underground shafts.

Nigeria, known for its abundant natural resources, is also home to significant copper deposits. The country’s copper reserves are mainly found in the Northern regions, particularly in Nasarawa and Zamfara states. These areas have been actively mined for several decades, with traditional mining techniques being used by local communities.

Aside from Nasarawa and Zamfara states, other parts of Northern Nigeria such as Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, and Gombe also have notable copper deposits. These areas are located within the Nigerian portion of the Pan-African Mobile Belt that extends from Senegal to Cameroon. This belt is known to contain a wealth of mineral resources including gold, iron ore, lead-zinc deposits and of course, copper.

In Nasarawa state specifically, there are three main locations where copper has been discovered – Tunga Maje in Awe Local Government Area; Udegi in Lafia Local Government Area; and Azara in Awe Local Government Area. These sites have been extensively explored by foreign companies such as Equinox Minerals Limited and South Atlantic Petroleum who conducted geological surveys and confirmed the presence of large-scale copper mineralization.

In Zamfara state, the main area where copper is found is at Tsohon Birnin Gwari-Kwaga near Kagara town. This location is estimated to have over 5 million tonnes of proven copper reserves and has attracted interest from both local and international investors.

The mining industry has always played a significant role in the economic development of Nigeria, and copper mining is no exception. In fact, copper is one of the leading mineral resources in the country, with its production contributing significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Copper mining in Nigeria has had a long history, dating back to pre-colonial times when it was extracted by traditional methods. However, with modern technology and investments, the sector has grown exponentially over the years.

One of the major economic impacts of copper mining on Nigeria is its contribution to job creation. The industry is labour-intensive and employs thousands of people directly and indirectly. From miners who extract copper ore from mines to engineers who design and maintain machinery, there are numerous job opportunities created by this sector. Additionally, support services such as transportation, security, and catering also provide employment for many Nigerians.

Moreover, copper mining also stimulates other sectors of the economy through its demand for goods and services. As mining activities require various equipment, materials, and supplies like explosives, lubricants, fuel, spare parts among others; local businesses benefit from supplying these items to mining companies. This creates a multiplier effect on local economies as more money circulates within communities.

In terms of revenue generation for the government, copper mining contributes significantly through taxes and royalties paid by companies operating in the sector. These funds can then be used for social welfare programs such as infrastructure development or improving public services like education and healthcare.

Copper mining has long been a significant part of Nigeria’s economy, with the country being one of the leading producers of this valuable mineral in Africa. However, as with any mining operation, there are environmental concerns and regulations that must be considered to ensure sustainable and responsible extraction.

One of the major environmental concerns surrounding copper mining in Nigeria is soil erosion. Mining activities involve digging up large areas of land and removing layers of soil to access the copper ore beneath. This disruption can lead to erosion, especially in areas with steep slopes, creating barren landscapes and degrading local ecosystems.

Water pollution is another pressing issue related to copper mining in Nigeria. The process of extracting copper involves using chemicals and heavy machinery, which can contaminate nearby water sources such as rivers and streams. This not only affects aquatic life but also poses a threat to human health as these water sources may be used for drinking or irrigation purposes by nearby communities. The smelting process used to extract pure copper from its ores releases toxic gases into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution. The burning of fossil fuels for energy during the mining process also adds to this problem. These pollutants can have adverse effects on both human health and the environment.

To address these environmental concerns, the Nigerian government has implemented various regulations governing copper mining operations in the country.

Copper mining in Nigeria has been a significant industry for many years, but recent technological advancements have greatly improved the efficiency and productivity of this sector. With the introduction of new technologies, Nigeria’s copper mines are now able to extract larger quantities of ore with minimal environmental impact.

One of the most significant technological advancements in copper mining in Nigeria is the use of advanced drilling techniques. Traditional methods involved manually drilling holes into the ground, which was not only time-consuming but also resulted in a lot of wastage and damage to the surrounding environment. However, with modern drilling equipment such as rotary drills and hydraulic drills, miners can now access deeper layers of copper deposits efficiently and accurately.

In addition to advanced drilling techniques, the use of digital mapping tools has revolutionized how copper mines are explored and surveyed. These tools use satellite imagery and GPS technology to create detailed 3D maps that provide valuable information about potential ore deposits. This allows mining companies to plan their operations more effectively, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

Another important advancement in copper mining technology is the implementation of automated systems. In traditional mining methods, miners had to physically extract ore from deep underground using heavy machinery, a process that was not only physically demanding but also dangerous for workers. With automated systems, robots or machines equipped with sensors can navigate through narrow tunnels and collect ore samples without human intervention. This reduces the risk of accidents while also increasing production rates.

The copper mining industry in Nigeria faces several challenges that hinder its growth and development. One of the major challenges is the lack of adequate infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, and transportation networks. This makes it difficult to transport equipment and materials needed for mining activities to remote areas where copper deposits are located.

Furthermore, there is a lack of skilled labour and expertise in the country’s mining sector. With limited training opportunities and inadequate government support, many young Nigerians are not equipped with the necessary skills to work in the copper mines. This has led to a heavy reliance on foreign workers who demand high wages, increasing production costs for mining companies.

Moreover, there are environmental concerns surrounding copper mining in Nigeria. The extraction process can cause air and water pollution if not properly regulated. This poses a threat to local communities’ health and well-being, as well as damage to ecosystems in the surrounding areas. Despite these challenges, there are promising future prospects for the copper mining industry in Nigeria. The country has an abundance of untapped mineral resources, including large deposits of copper ore that could potentially make Nigeria a significant player in the global market.

To overcome infrastructure challenges, the Nigerian government has launched various initiatives aimed at improving road networks and providing reliable electricity supply to support industrialization efforts across different sectors, including mining.

It is clear that copper mines in Nigeria have significant importance and potential for the country’s economy. The presence of large deposits of copper ore in several states, including Zamfara, Kano, and Nasarawa, presents a great opportunity for the development and growth of the mining industry in Nigeria.

One of the main reasons why copper mines are important is their contribution to the country’s revenue. With the global demand for copper continuously increasing due to its wide range of industrial applications, Nigeria has a chance to tap into this market and generate substantial income from exporting copper. This will not only boost the country’s GDP but also create employment opportunities for its citizens.

Furthermore, with advancements in technology and mining techniques, there is a huge potential for the expansion of copper production in Nigeria. According to estimates by geologists, only about 0.02% of Nigeria’s landmass has been explored for minerals like copper. This means that there could be much larger reserves waiting to be discovered. By investing in modern equipment and exploration methods, Nigeria can increase its production capacity significantly.

Copper mines also have great potential when it comes to attracting foreign investment. As one of Africa’s leading economies with favourable policies towards foreign investors, Nigeria can leverage its rich mineral resources such as copper to attract more capital into its mining sector. This will not only bring in new technology but also create partnerships that can enhance local expertise and knowledge transfer.

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