Understanding the Concept of Minerals and Mining


Understanding the Concept of Minerals and Mining

An understanding of the concept of minerals and mining for the purpose of this article can be categorized into: International and Nigerian outlook on Mining and mineral resources; Regional concerns on mining of mineral resources.

International and Nigerian Outlook on Mining and Mineral Resources

The enterprise of mining has been severally defined. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as “the process of extracting useful minerals from the surface of the Earth, including the seas.” The encyclopedia goes further to define a mineral by stating that “a mineral, with a few exceptions, is an inorganic substance occurring in nature that has a definite chemical composition and distinctive physical properties or molecular structure.

Generally, mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner. The economic value of the mined materials is made prominent in this definition.

Ores recovered by mining include metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones, limestone, chalk, dimension stone, rock salt, potash, gravel, and clay. Mining is required to obtain any material that cannot be grown through agricultural processes, or feasibly created artificially in a laboratory or factory. Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of any non-renewable resource such as petroleum, natural gas, or even water. In this work, the narrow and not the wider sense of mining is in focus -the mining of stones, metals and the like.

According to Nigeria’s Guidelines for the Production of Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation Program Report:

“Mining is the extraction of mineral commodities of economic importance from the earth. Mining operations, according to the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 includes activities such as exploration-, mineral extraction, processing and beneficiation. Although, minerals are essential for the wellbeing of any nation, it is often with negative impacts which would have to be mitigated or addressed if mining is to be sustainable. This requires an aggressive application of carefully planned environmental management plan as well as rehabilitation and restoration programmes aimed at ensuring environmental protection and rehabilitation of the mining environment.”

This definition encapsulates summarily the breadth of this work. It defines mining by emphasizing its economic value but at the same time notes that it has negative environmental impact requiring sustainable solutions.

The Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission notes that thirty-four (34) solid minerals are found in commercial quantity and are spread across the 36 States of Nigeria and Abuja. Out of these, seven (7) strategic solid minerals are being prioritized and promoted for private sector participation and investment by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The selected solid minerals are gold, coal, bitumen, limestone, iron ore, lead/zinc and barytes.

Some of the minerals, notably, cassiterite (tin), columbite, tantalite, wolframite, lead, zinc, gold and coal have been exploited on a commercial. scale since early part of the last century and have made significant contributions to national revenue and socio-economic development.

Other minerals like monazite, xenotime, zircon, thorite and molybdenite have also been produced in lesser quantities and exported. Relatively more recently, oil and gas (starting from 1957), limestone, marble and rock aggregates have been playing an increasing role in national socio-economic development and growth because they generate appreciable internal revenue and/or foreign exchange earnings. They have, in fact, overshadowed other economic minerals by generating over 90% of the export earnings, more than 50% of the national revenue.

At present, many of the minerals are at different levels of exploitation.

Internationally, The World Bank Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Guidelines for mining are technical reference documents with industry specific examples of Good International Industry Practice (GIIP) in the mining sector. Also, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards on Environment and Social Sustainability describes IFC’s commitments, roles and responsibilities related to environment and social sustainability, having 8 performance standards.

Regional Concerns on Mining of Mineral Resources

ECOWAS Directive on the Harmonization of Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining Sector, 2009

The ECOWAS Directive on The Harmonization of Guiding Principles and Policies In The Mining Sector, 2009 has as its objectives inter alia:

“(1) To provide harmonization of guiding principles and policies in the mining sector of Member States to ensure high standards of accountability for mining companies and governments, promoting human rights, transparency and social equity as well as providing protection for local communities and the environment in mining areas within the sub-region

(2.) To provide a mining environment that is responsive to macroeconomic sustainable development and balances the need to provide appropriate incentives to attract investors and to protect the revenue base and resources of Member States…”

The Directive identifies minerals as state resources, makes provisions on acquisition or occupation of land for mining, principles for acquiring mineral rights, protection of the environment and national interests, state participation in mining operations, related human rights obligations, sustainable development, local community issues and related dispute resolution principles.


The AfDB’s new Integrated Safeguards System (ISSS) was adopted by the Bank in December 2013 as a cornerstone of its strategy to promote growth that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. The Safeguards are a powerful tool for identifying risks, reducing development costs and improving project sustainability, thus benefitting affected communities and helping to preserve the environment.

The ISS brings all relevant environmental and social policies and strategies of the Bank into a consolidated framework. That is intended to enhance the effectiveness and relevance of the Bank’s work. In addition, the Bank has adopted five Operational Safeguards (OS), limiting their number to just what is required to achieve the goals and optimal functioning of the ISS.

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These five OS are triggered by the proposed titan nickel mining project as described below:

Operational Safeguard 1: Environmental and Social Assessment -This overarching safeguard governs the process of determining a project’s environmental and social category and the resulting environmental and social assessment requirements.

Operational Safeguard 2: Involuntary Resettlement land acquisition, population displacement and compensation -This safeguard consolidates the policy commitments and requirements set out in the Bank’s policy on involuntary resettlement and associated issues.

Operational Safeguard 3: Biodiversity and ecosystem services -This safeguard aims to conserve biological diversity and promote the sustainable use of natural resources including water resources management.

Operational Safeguard 4: Pollution prevention and control, hazardous materials and resource efficiency. This safeguard covers the range of key impacts of pollution, waste and hazardous materials for which there are agreed international conventions, as well as comprehensive industry-specific and regional standards, including greenhouse gas accounting, that other unilateral development banks follow.

Operational Safeguard 5: Labour conditions, health and safety -This safeguard establishes the Bank’s requirements for its borrowers or clients concerning workers’ conditions, rights and protection from abuse or exploitation.

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