Ebonyi State, located in southeastern Nigeria, is endowed with some of the richest solid mineral deposits in the country. With large reserves of salt, limestone, zinc, lead, and granite, among other minerals, the state holds tremendous potential for investments in the mining sector.
This article provides a detailed overview of the different minerals present in Ebonyi, current mining activities, opportunities for further exploration and extraction, the regulatory environment, and guidelines for investors. Read on to learn more about how you can tap into the state’s mineral wealth.
Salt Occurrence and Reserves
Ebonyi State has some of the biggest salt deposits in Nigeria. Government surveys estimate salt reserves to be over 30 million metric tonnes across different locations like Uburu, Okposi, Onuebonyi, and Afikpo.
The salt is available in the form of brine springs below the ground. It is further evaporated to produce high-quality table salt. Major salt-producing areas include the Uburu and Okposi salt lakes, which account for over 90% of the state’s production.
Current Extraction Levels
As per current mining activity, Ebonyi produces over 1.5 million metric tonnes of white, stoneless table salt every year. This makes up over 60% of the total salt production in Nigeria. Most of this is sourced from only 15-20% of the total salt reserves, indicating huge room for growth.
Indigenous small-scale mining groups control the majority of the production using local techniques like lifting brine to the surface and solar evaporation in ponds. Larger companies with more advanced drilling and refining capabilities can dramatically boost output.
Considering the vast deposits still untapped, Ebonyi salt reserves offer lucrative investment opportunities in mining leases and setting up upgraded production facilities. The high quality and demand for consumable salt ensure consistent local and international markets.
Favourable government policies incentivize investors with 5–10 years of tax holidays and waivers of customs duties for importing advanced machinery. Road and electricity infrastructure is being beefed up, which improves accessibility and reduces operating expenses.
There are huge limestone deposits distributed across different parts of Ebonyi State. The biggest reserves are found in northern parts like Ishiagu, Akaeze, and the adjoining villages. Other notable deposits are located in Ameka, Emohua, Ezzamgbo, Onicha, and Ebonyi Local Government Areas.
The Ishiagu limestone deposit is considered very high quality, containing between 55 and 98% calcium carbonate content. There are also varying grades of limestone available for use in cement manufacturing. Conservative estimates put the total limestone reserves in the state at over 100 million metric tonnes.
Current and Potential Utilisation
The limestone deposits have been used in Ebonyi for typical applications like building and construction purposes. Existing mining focuses only on small surface outcrops and is done crudely with simple tools and manual labour.
With global advancements in mining technology, greater extraction is now possible. Investors can leverage Ebonyi’s limestone reserves for large-scale production of:
- Cement: The high calcium carbonate content makes the limestone conducive to all grades of cement. Attractive local and export potential exists, particularly for cement usage in neighbouring states.
- Lime: The chemical and metallurgical industry represents a multi-billion-dollar opportunity for high-quality lime production.
- Marble and limestone aggregates: for applications in buildings, monuments, floor tiles, etc.
In addition to these, foreign investors and off-takers can benefit from Ebonyi State’s strategic location as a gateway to landlocked cities beyond southeast Nigeria.
Lead or zinc
Reserves and Quality
As per geological surveys, Ebonyi State has rich deposits of over 7.5 million metric tonnes of lead-zinc ores. This includes reserves with lead concentrations between 10 and 25% and zinc concentrations ranging from 35 to 45%.
The lead-zinc belt stretches over 40 square kilometres across the Abakiliki anticlinal valley in Afikpo, stretching through Amasiri and down to Okpoto in Amoaha. Ishiagu is another notable location, with vast lead-zinc ores still untouched.
The lead-zinc content in Ebonyi compares favourably with yields from globally renowned mining jurisdictions like Australia and China. The product quality is also high, with negligible impurity levels.
While large-scale mining activity is yet to commence in Ebonyi, these high-grade lead-zinc reserves offer excellent investment opportunities. Focused geological mapping can further reveal the total quantum of deposits for structured development.
Ebonyi ores offer substantial cost arbitrage for mining companies compared to reserves in North America and Europe. End products like lead metal and zinc ingots have strong local and international demand.
Support from State Agencies
The Ebonyi State government aims to attract investments worth over $7 billion in mining and agriculture over the next decade. For speedy project approvals, a one-stop investment centre assists investors with obtaining necessary permits, registration, project development, etc.
Additional incentives for miners include generous tax breaks, import duty exemptions, and subsidies for bank loans. The government also facilitates adequate land acquisition and resettlement for host communities.
Recent studies reveal Ebonyi State has granite stone reserves of over 400 million metric tonnes across several locations. This includes various colours like grey, pink, and black granite with excellent technical specifications.
Areas with sizeable deposits include Ishiagu, Owutu Edda, Okpoto Ishieke, Nkalagu, Abakiliki, and Ameka. The government is still undertaking extensive geological mapping to ascertain total reserves.
Ebonyi granite contains high concentrations of quartz and feldspar, which lend exceptional hardness, shine, and durability. Currently, only small quarrying activities cater to local demand for stone aggregates.
With the right financial and technological backing, large-scale investments can focus on:
- Granite mining and cutting for indigenous and overseas export markets
- Polished granite slabs and tiles for global construction projects
- Granite aggregates for infrastructure development
Support from the government
The Ebonyi Minerals Exploration Company is leading systematic surveys to quantify available deposits and facilitate investor access. They also offer subsidised land permits to miners, along with tax incentives and import concessions.
Dedicated ministry teams also work in sync with miners to ensure the fulfilment of government regulations, community partnerships, and sustainable mining operations.
In addition to the major minerals above, Ebonyi State also contains notable reserves of:
- Gypsum: Occurring near Effium and deposited in sedimentary layers with a sulphur content between 30 and 35%
- Barite: Lead-zinc mining locations also indicate healthy barite reserves used in drilling mud applications.
- Crude Oil: Ongoing geological studies reveal the presence of oil and gas in deeper sediments; drilling testing is underway.
Mineral Trading Hub
A strategic initiative is underway to develop a dedicated mineral trading hub across 50 hectares near Abakiliki city. The Ebonyi government has secured over $70 million in funding for the project.
Key highlights of the proposed trading hub:
- Centralise mining transactions, quality assessments, and logistics.
- Common production and testing facilities
- Integrated road, rail, and airport access
- Support zone for storage tanks, equipment, etc.
- One-stop approvals under fast-track processes
The state mineral trading hub aims to significantly ease bottlenecks and overheads for mining investors.
Regulations and Guidelines
All mining projects require approvals and permits from designated state agencies before operations commence. The main aspects are highlighted below.
Investors have to secure a mining lease sanctioned by the Mining Cadastral Office. Key considerations for lease approval are:
- The technical competence of the applicant
- Financial capacity to execute the project
- Proposed activity should align with mining industry development.
Community Development Agreement
Since land tracts for mining fall under local communities, miners have to enter a Community Development Agreement (CDA). This ensures:
- Consent of the community for the project
- Fair compensation for economic crops destroyed
- Recruitment and skill development opportunities for indigenous
Environmental Impact Assessment
Miners have to conduct an environmental impact assessment to gain a permit for the commencement of full operations. Mitigation steps must be proposed for:
- Noise/vibration control
- Restoration of the mining site after resource extraction
- Afforestation initiatives for greenery development
Mines Environmental Compliance Department
The MECD department conducts regular inspections of active mining sites to check conformance to approved environment management plans and pollution control norms.
Mines Dispute Resolution Centre
To address grievances related to community partnerships, compensation claims, and environmental damages, miners can approach this department for:
- Mediation services to resolve disputes through dialogue with all stakeholders
- Independent investigation about cause and liability related to claims
- Recommending appropriate compensations and penalties based on applicable regulations
- Fast-track processing of environmental damages and pollution-related complaints
- Advising on improvements in practices to avoid future conflicts
The dispute resolution centre aims to provide fair hearings and minimise legal hassles for miners over community and environmental issues. This facilitates the smooth functioning of projects.
Specialised executive committees review cases to ensure decisions take into account both local welfare and operational viability for miners. All proceedings typically conclude within 45–90 days.
Funding and incentives
The Ebonyi State government offers a variety of promotional incentives and funding options to attract large-scale private investments into mining projects.
Investment Promotion Agencies
Dedicated organs like the Ebonyi State Investment Promotion Agency (EB-IPA) provide extensive assistance across project development, approvals, registration, licences, and implementation.
They offer attractive fiscal incentives like tax holidays up to 7 years, import duty exemptions on equipment, relaxed export protocols, and subsidies on land provisioning.
Access to Financing
Developing high-capital mining operations requires easier access to financing. EB-IPA interfaces with banks and investor groups to facilitate the provision of credits, private equity, etc.
Specifically for mining, the Bank of Industry offers loans up to $10 million at concessional rates. Terms stretch up to 10 years, with provisions for moratoriums.
To boost FDI inflows, Ebonyi actively networks with export partners and allows 100% ownership of mining projects. Appropriate mechanisms for the secure transfer of capital and profits exist.
The state also has bilateral investment agreements with over 16 countries, making cross-border investments frictionless.
Connecting with local partners
Ebonyi also encourages joint venture partnerships between international miners and domestic SMEs. This allows for the leveraging of domain expertise by local investors and mitigates community conflicts.
Reputed family-owned businesses with interests across quarrying, cement, steel, etc. make for profitable allies. The EB-IPA facilitates such B2B alliances.
Linkages with Educational Institutes
Ebonyi University, along with smaller mining colleges, provides a steady talent pipeline required for design and engineering roles. Internship opportunities can be tapped by investors.
Applied research support is also available from these institutes related to mineral assaying, reserve estimation, excavation techniques, etc. This allows the dynamic optimisation of mining operations.
Ebonyi State clearly has enormous mining potential waiting to be unearthed. With visionary administrative support, rich mineral belts, and easier operational integration, the state can truly become the number one mining investment destination across Nigeria.
We encourage mining companies, technology solution providers, downstream manufacturers, and equipment suppliers to set up bases in Ebonyi. The upcoming integrated mineral trading hub provides plug-and-play infrastructure to hit the ground running.