An established and well managed solid minerals sub-sector will accelerate economic, social and political growth of Nigeria by provision of gainful employment and a rise in national income earnings far exceeding the petroleum sector. In addition, solid minerals will provide local raw materials for industries and bring vital infrastructure and wealth to rural areas.

Solid minerals have capacity to provide the all important launching pad for the development of other sectors of the economy as well as give sense and meaning to the oneness of the Nigerian state as minerals are located in all states of the Federation. This will douse the agitation for resource control. It is therefore vital that the nation explores this latent potential which has slumbered over the years.

Solid minerals contributed immensely to the economic development of Nigeria in the pre-independence years. During this period, Nigeria was known for the production of coal as an energy source for electricity, railways and also for export. Tin, Columbite, Lead and Zinc were exported. Nigeria was the largest producer of Columbite at one point. The earnings from solid minerals, were used to develop roads, education, hospitals and in fact develop the petroleum industry.

The decline of the solid minerals industry started with the discovery of oil to an extent that Nigeria became a mono product economy and vulnerable to international oil politics. The domineering role of oil did not allow past governments to attend to global challenges that evolved in the development of solid minerals.

The neglect of the minerals industry led to disorder in the minesfield with strong presence of illegal miners whose activities are characterized by inefficient mining, illegal trading of highly priced minerals, severe ecological degradation, spread of diseases and huge loss of revenue to the government through smuggling.

On the other hand, Mining continues to play a key role in the development of Africa’s economies. Countries like South Africa,Ghana and Tanzania,remain critically dependent on the earnings of solid minerals.As a result,countries introduced liberal reforms to meet intense competition to attract investment funds.Ghana for example undertook significant reforms both in legal and institutional frame-work and to the general organization of the sector. The result has been growth in mining investment. Tanzania is now a leading destination for exploration funds due to the deliberate government attention to the development of mining. Burkina Faso and Mali have also become strong mining countries.

Following the global economic recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s, developing countries started liberalising their external trade to improve balance of payment, increase economic growth through the provision of incentives to attract capital in-flow and investment.

The developing countries especially in Africa and Latin America turned to Solid Minerals exploration as a solution to sustained economic growth. Nigeria’s economy which is largely dependent on a mono-product (petroleum) became vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices with the attendant shocks on the economy. This informed the Federal Government’s decision to diversify the nation’s economic base from oil to the non-oil sectors including the development of solid minerals resources.

An internal analysis in reaction to the global economic recession led to key policy review which was completed and endorsed at the middle of the 1990s for implementation. The policy review led to a number of important actions including the creation of the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development in 1995.

Efforts had earlier been made towards the development of the sector which include the following:

• The New National Policy on Solid Minerals Development, 1998

• The enactment of the Minerals and Mining Act, 1999

• Development of the Seven Year Strategic Action Plan for Solid Minerals Development in Nigeria, (2002 2009);

• Establishment of Nigerian Geological Survey Agency.

• Establishment of Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project – a World Bank assisted programme.

• Establishment of the Mining Cadastre Office to grant mining permits and licences

• Establishment of the Mines Environment Compliance Department to ensure best International practice.

• Establishment of the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Department as a focussed department for small entrepreneurs and local content

• Enactment of the Minerals and Mining Act 2007.

Previous policy decisions and instruments, although well meaning, have not produced the desired results and the outcomes for which they were developed. As a result, for the sector to develop beyond its low level, it became apparent that a reform of the policy is required.

These decisions and instruments, developed in recent times have brought about significant change in perception and interest in the sector. However there is now a need to deepen the interests and develop further, the enabling environment for the sector to grow to the next level.

In addition, there is a constant need to respond to the changing environment in the global mining industry and to situate this within the context of MDG andNigeria’s development agenda especially National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) 1,(2004) and NEEDS 2,(2007).