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Untapped Riches: Exploring Benue State’s Wealth of Mineral Deposits and Economic Potential

Introduction to Benue State’s Mineral Wealth Potential

Benue State, located in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, is endowed with an array of valuable mineral resources that remain largely untapped. From gold, lead, and zinc to coal, limestone, and salt, Benue State contains substantial deposits of minerals that could catalyse transformative economic growth for the state and its residents if properly leveraged.

However, despite this mineral wealth, Benue State remains one of the least economically developed states in the country. Poverty levels are high, as many residents rely on subsistence agriculture to barely get by. Harnessing the state’s solid mineral endowments provides major opportunities to drive industrialization, boost exports, improve infrastructure, and raise living standards across Benue.

This article will analyse Benue State’s key mineral deposits, their current extraction levels compared to estimated deposits, and the economic promise these natural resources hold if adequately tapped. It will also assess the initiatives and policies needed to transform the state’s mineral wealth into engines of sustainable economic growth and development.

Benue State’s Geology and Occurrence of Mineral Deposits

Benue State falls within the extensive Middle Belt tin fields, which stretch across the borderlands between Nigeria and Cameroon. The state’s mineralization is associated with poorly exposed Cretaceous continental sediments such as shale, alluvium, mudstone, sandstone, and schist. Mineral deposits are concentrated along the Benue trough, with its Cretaceous sediments dipping gently towards the River Benue, from which the state derives its name.

Key minerals occurring in Benue State include coal, gypsum, iron ore, lead/zinc, limestone, salt, gemstones, kaolin, tantalite, cassiterite, calcite, petroleum, and barytes. Detailed mineral occurrence and geological mapping across Benue State have been limited, indicating that its true mineral potential remains poorly understood and likely exceeds current estimates.

Small-scale mining activities dominate these solid minerals in Benue, with mostly crude extraction techniques that recover only a tiny fraction of deposits. More large-scale mechanised mining coupled with robust geological surveys is vital to properly unveiling and leveraging Benue’s immense mineral endowments.


Nigeria boasts large coal reserves, estimated at 639 metric tonnes. Benue State contains a section of the vast Anambra coal basin, which spans across Enugu, Kogi, Benue, the Delta, Anambra, Ebonyi, and Gombe States.

Specifically, coal deposits have been discovered in Owukpa, Oju, Obi, and Okaba districts in Benue State. The Ogboyoga coalfield, located at Okaba in Benue State, has an estimated 101 million metric tonnes of coal reserves. However, only the Ogwule and Owukpa coal mines have seen some coal production, albeit on a very small scale.

Nigeria currently produces far below its coal utilisation needs. Despite Benue State’s proven coal deposits, none of its coal assets are being exploited optimally or at significant commercial levels. Harnessing Benue State’s coal potential will assure national energy self-reliance and save Nigeria billions spent importing coal. Coal also has applications across the cement, steel, food, and chemical industries.

Lead and zinc

Benue State forms part of the 4000 square kilometres of Lower, Middle, and Upper Benue trough, which bears rich deposits of lead and zinc ore. Lead-zinc mineralization can be found across Agala, Wannune, Gboko, Yandev, Adikpo, and Abako areas in Benue State. Studies estimate that over 5 million metric tonnes of lead-zinc deposits exist in the Benue Valley.

But current mining operations remain small-scale and disorganised, failing to properly harness the state’s lead-zinc wealth. Formalising the state’s artisanal lead-zinc mining sector will boost production, enable mechanisation to reach deeper deposits, and ensure adequate safety standards.

Developing Benue’s lead-zinc mining industry will reduce import dependence for both metals and generate foreign exchange from the export of lead and zinc resources not required locally. Lead and zinc have extensive applications across manufacturing, construction, medicine, and electronics.


Limestone is a versatile industrial mineral used extensively in cement production, steel making, water treatment, and as an input across various other industries.

Benue State contains rich sedimentary limestone deposits, especially around the Yandev, Oju, Obi, Mbalagh, Gboko, and Otukpo areas. High-purity limestone suitable for cement manufacture occurs around Yandev and Oju over an area exceeding 50 kilometres. Small-scale open-cast quarrying of limestone is underway around these locations to produce limestone for the Ashaka Cement Factory. The factory has an output capacity of 1 million tonnes per year and remains Nigeria’s largest cement producer, relying, in part, on Benue State’s limestone deposits. More systematic commercial limestone mining across Benue, catering to growing cement production needs and other industrial applications, will catalyse manufacturing investments and industrialization statewide.


Rock salt deposits have been discovered at Abakpa, Odobo, and Abugbe in the Ugbokolo and Okpokwu areas of Benue State. However, mining activities around these areas remain small-scale and disorganised, failing to recover substantial deposits. Moreover, the indigenous salt production techniques used around Benue’s salt-bearing areas are very crude, involving simply quarrying salt rocks and concentrating brine from saline waters.

More organised, mechanised extraction approaches are needed to boost Benue’s salt production and elevate it to commercial levels to tap national and regional demand. Salt remains extensively used across the chemical, food processing, agriculture, petroleum, and leather industries.

Iron Ore

Although much focus remains on Nigeria’s massive iron ore deposits in Kogi State, more than 3 billion tonnes of iron ore have also been discovered across several local government areas in Benue State. These include Gboko, Otukpo, Ogobia, Otukpa, Ugbokpo, and Nyage districts. However, despite these vast deposits, just a few metric tonnes of iron are being produced annually across Benue. More updated geological surveys are imperative to map Benue’s precise iron ore deposits relative to commercial quantities and grades essential for steel works. Organised mining arrangements can thereafter be instituted to plug demand from Ajaokuta and other steel mills being revamped nationwide.


Previous geological surveys have confirmed Benue State’s potential for gemstone deposits, including varieties like sapphire, tourmaline, aquamarine, emerald, and garnet. However, substantive studies and exploration are still required to systematically ascertain the state’s viable gemstone occurrences. Currently, low-skill artisanal mining dominates gemstone extraction in Benue State, focused mostly on industrial quartz. Mechanised gemstone mining arrangements can distinctly improve productivity. Gemstone mining and cutting also offers major potential for craft-making industries and artisanal job creation across Benue State.


Benue State is endowed with a deposit of gold at Bete, in Kwande local government area. Gold also occurs around Kwali, Paiko, Kusuv, and Mararraba in the Ebeda and Auya areas of Buruku Local Government Area in Benue State. However, substantive geological surveys are still required to map accurate gold deposits and determine the commercial feasibility of organised mining. Indigenous artisanal gold mining remains the norm across these locations, utilising crude excavation and amalgamation techniques that capture just a minute portion of auriferous deposits. Gold mining and processing provide immense revenue and foreign exchange earning potential if undertaken at commercially mechanised scales.


Kaolin is an important industrial mineral essential across the pharmaceutical, toothpaste, paint, paper, rubber, plastic, and ceramic industries owing to its high whiteness and fine particle size. Substantial kaolin deposits occur around Katsina-Ala, especially within the Ihugh, Vaase, and Ukpayabo areas. Small pockets of kaolin are also being exploited away from major kaolin occurrence zones owing to poor infrastructure. Mechanised processing of kaolin and the development of supporting transport infrastructure will boost productivity and properly harness high-grade kaolin for local industries and export markets.


The Benue Trough also bears potential for hydrocarbon exploration as an extension of the prolific Niger Delta Basin, where most of Nigeria’s oil and gas production is concentrated. Modest oil and gas finds have occurred in the Benue Valley, leading to wells like Nzeh-1, Akiri-1, Auchi-1, Izom-1, and Katsina-Ala-1. This confirms Benue State’s oil and gas prospects, albeit not yet at commercial levels. Intensifying exploration activities supported by enhanced seismic data and geological insight can open up new large discoveries across Nigeria’s frontier basins, like Benue State, with spillover effects on economic and export activities.

Economic Promise of Advancing Benue State’s Mining Industry

Benue State’s extensive range of mineral endowments, if systematically exploited, can institute transformative economic growth for its residents, reduce poverty and vulnerability, and elevate living standards. Some socio-economic opportunities from tapping the state’s mineral wealth include:

Revenue Generation and Economic Diversification

Organised mining and optimal extraction of Benue’s minerals on a commercial scale can generate significant tax and royalty revenues for the state government while creating a new resilient pillar for the state’s economy beyond vulnerable agriculture. Conservatively, billions can be generated mining Benue’s minerals sustainably over the next decade, considering just modest production and royalty levels. Such mining tax proceeds can be invested in critical infrastructure like roads, power, housing, and digital connectivity to ease constraints on other economic sectors.

Export Earnings

Strategically harnessing its mineral wealth also enables Benue State to earn vital foreign exchange from mineral exports that exceed domestic utilization. For instance, exploiting its coal and iron ore endowments using improved mechanised mining and sorting techniques can enable Benue State to plug demand gaps from local cement, steel, and manufacturing industries while exporting any excess coal and iron ore production. Such export proceeds can finance the state’s technology imports and socio-economic development needs.

Industrialization and manufacturing

The abundant local availability of industrially essential minerals is crucial to catalysing manufacturing investments by ensuring reliable, low-cost access to the requisite raw materials. Beneficiating minerals locally also allows for higher value-added processing compared to mere crude extraction. Accordingly, sustainably mining the state’s mineral assets, especially coal, limestone, and iron ore, provides a bedrock for rapid industrialization, including the potential manufacture of cement, steel, chemicals, ceramics, paints, papers, plastics, etc. Such mineral-driven industrialization will create thousands of manufacturing jobs across Benue State.

Infrastructure and Urban Development

Scaling up mining operations across Benue State and unleashing the production potential of its mineral endowments will spur major infrastructure upgrades like roads, rail, power plants, and dams to support mining logistics and processing needs. New urban hubs and specialised mining service centres will also emerge across areas where large-scale mining takes root.

Skills Development and Technology Transfer

Transitioning from current artisanal mining techniques to more organised mechanised extraction of Benue’s minerals will foster wider technology absorption and skill upgrades for state residents employed across mining operations and allied processing facilities. Specialist geological, mining engineering, and mineral processing consultancies will also emerge to cater to the state’s expanding mining industry.

Job Creation

A flourishing mineral extraction industry centred on rational mining and processing will generate thousands of rewarding jobs for Benue State residents owing to extensive value chain linkages. Direct jobs across drilling, blasting, haulage, sorting, refining, and maintenance will expand, in addition to indirect employment in mining equipment fabrication and spares, logistics, security, etc. Further employment opportunities will also open across construction, hotels, and other services supporting mining operations.

Poverty Reduction

Harnessing its solid mineral endowments also provides a major pathway for Benue State to reduce endemic poverty levels, especially in rural areas where minerals like coal, salt, gemstones, and limestone occur. Stemming rural-urban drift, uplifting host communities, and financing improved social services will tangibly improve living standards for millions of residents through mining-spurred economic diversification.

Policy reforms and initiatives are needed.

However, optimising the state’s mineral assets to become real catalysts for economic diversification and broad-based development rather than enclaves requires instituting the following policy reforms:

Updated Geological Mapping

There have been no systematic geoscience surveys to ascertain the precise quantity and grade of mineral deposits across Benue State for decades. Outdated mineral inventories undermine the state’s ability to plan, attract investment, and exploit its mineral wealth. Accordingly, the state government needs to prioritise financing detailed geoscientific mapping, especially using more modern airborne surveys to correctly quantify all viable mineral occurrences across Benue’s landscape.


Many mining areas across Benue State, especially those with gold and gemstone deposits, remain vulnerable to bandits and criminal gangs. Pitched gun battles around mining sites deter private sector investment, apart from increasing safety risks. The Federal Government needs to collaborate more actively with state authorities to deploy troops and strengthen vigilance in protecting miners and mining assets.

Infrastructure Development

Benue State’s mining regions suffer poor road connectivity and energy access, partly hindering more investment in mineral exploitation. Priority infrastructure projects like the 53-kilometre Kasina-Ala-Gembu road and electrification drives into mining areas are vital to ease operations. The state government can also construct dedicated mineral transportation corridors, like a railway spur line from its limestone mines and processing hubs to the national rail network.

Regularisation of Informal Miners

Tens of thousands of artisanal miners across Benue State depend on the rudimentary extraction of solid minerals to survive but without licences, safety protocols, social services, or output tracking. While stronger regulation is vital, cooperation mechanisms to support technical upgrades, organise artisanal miners into cooperatives, and oversee working conditions are equally important. Formalising informal mining will improve safety, curb environmental damage, and integrate marginalised communities into the state economy.

Investor Incentives

Benue State boasts unique mineral occurrences that still require substantive investment in exploration and commercial development rather than being production-ready assets. Providing prospective mining companies with enhanced tax breaks as pioneers, especially in machinery imports and logistics, flexible mineral licence award procedures, and logistics and infrastructure support are vital to attracting investment. Reduced bureaucratic hurdles and transparent mineral cadastral systems also need to be instituted.

Downstream Processing

Most mining currently occurs via crude extraction for export, with minimal in-country value addition. Integrating beneficiation technologies like ore sorting, crushing, screening, and smelting is essential to processing Benue State’s minerals domestically, thereby retaining more value and demand linkages than mere commodity exports. Fiscal incentives for miners can be linked to deepening domestic mineral processing. The Benue state government must also actively participate as an equity partner in flagship mining initiatives.

Skills Development

The ABU Faculty of Earth Sciences in Benue State provides crucial technical skills for geology and mining. Further expanding geology, mining engineering, and geosciences programmes here, along with practical apprenticeships for artisanal miners, will build vital skill pools to support the expansion of Benue’s mining industry. Secondary schools and technical colleges also need tailored curricula for crafts and technician roles across drilling, fitting, electrics, automation, etc. to create wider feeder pools into mining operations.


Environmental damage, conflicts, and waste have undermined mining regions across Nigeria owing to inadequate governance. Benue State needs to institute clear guidelines and oversight mechanisms ensuring mining companies limit pollution via proper mine rehabilitation while respecting community rights and needs via CSR partnerships on health, training, and local sourcing. Royalties also need to be pooled into dedicated community and regional development funds with local participation in managing proceeds transparently.


In conclusion, Benue State possesses extensive solid mineral assets, especially coal, lead, zinc, limestone, and iron ore, that remain largely untapped despite their immense potential to catalyse economic diversification. Harnessing these via systematic mining can institute transformative growth, reduce poverty, and be vulnerable for millions of residents through job creation, revenue generation, and wider knock-on industry development like manufacturing and infrastructure. However, realising this requires updated geoscience mapping on actual mineral deposits, proactive policy incentives to attract investment, infrastructure upgrades, integration of artisanal miners, enhanced security, sustainable mining protocols, and local skill development. The economic destiny of Benue State fundamentally pivots on strategically leveraging its generous natural mineral wealth.

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