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Economy, Mining

columbite, Lafia, Benue State, Jos Plateau, Niger Delta

During the early and mid-1990s mining contributed an average of about 25 percent of the GDP, depending on the price of petroleum. Discovered in 1956, petroleum was produced at a rate of 780 million barrels in 1999 from more than 150 oil fields, mostly in the Niger Delta. About one-fifth of the oil fields are offshore. Although Nigeria’s petroleum is expensive to produce, it commands a high price because of its low sulfur content. Half of all exports go to the United States, most of the other half to Europe.

Nigeria has Africa’s largest reserves of natural gas, most of which coincide with the oil fields. Despite efforts to develop markets for natural gas—including investment in gas-fired electrical installations, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, and fertilizer and chemical ventures—almost three-quarters of production is burned off rather than diverted for use.

Production of coal has declined to about 63,503 metric tons, far less than the late 1950s production, largely because the Enugu coalfields are almost exhausted. The government is attempting to boost production by developing new fields at Lafia and Obi in Benue State. Also in sharp decline are production of tin (300 metric tons per year) and columbite, which have been mined from alluvial gravels on the Jos Plateau since 1905 but which now yield about 1 percent of their late 1960s levels. Other major mining operations include iron ore, which is exploited for the steel industry, and limestone, used to manufacture cement. Gypsum, barite, and kaolin mines have also been established recently.



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