Nigeria is blessed with abundant mineral resources, which are from time immemorial formed the backbone of the nation’s economic and industrial development aspirations. Prior to independence, the nation’s mineral raw material resources contributed immensely to the export earnings of the nation.
For over three decades, the Country has continued to depend entirely on oil for her revenue and the volatile nature of the oil market has made it imperative for us to diversify the mono-product economy through exploitation and processing of our abundant solid mineral resources. The clamour for resource control being advocated by states with petroleum resources in their domain makes it imperative for us to develop, exploit, process and utilize our solid minerals – particularly Non-metallic Minerals as every part of this country is blessed with one or more solid mineral that could yield substantial revenue for sustainable development.
Exploitation of the Non-metallic Minerals has not attained the desired level, mainly because of the various constraints associated with their exploitation, development and processing for utilization. Many of the non-metallic minerals, which are vital to the industrial take off of the country, have been found in commercial quantities within the country.
They include limestone, mica, dolomite, marble, kaolin, barite, diatomite, feldspar, quartz and silica sands, gypsum, talc, silimanite, kyanite, rock salt (halite), phosphate, and bentonite.
Halite, the natural form of salt, is a very common and well-known mineral. It is found in solid masses, and as a dissolved solution in the oceans and in salt lakes. The inland lakes that are rich in salt exist in arid regions, and may also be below sea level without an outlet. These lakes evaporate during dry seasons, causing a recession in the water level and an increase of salinity content.
Halite also exists in non-arid regions, in underground deposits which can reach great depths. Underground Halite deposits are often mined by drilling wells into the salt layer, and bringing in hot water which quickly dissolves the salt into a brine. The brine is saturated with dissolved salt and is then pumped out. The brine evaporates and the remainder salt crystallizes and is harvested. Most commercially available Rock Salt is regrown from evaporated salt brine and is not the original natural crystals. Halite also forms from evaporation at salt springs where saline water comes out of the ground in a salt deposit and precipitates as rounded globular masses.
Brine springs and lake spreads are possible sources of crude salt in Nigeria. The concentration of salt in these springs has been estimated at 15 to 30 parts per thousand. The saline springs occur within the narrow belt which extends in a North-North East – South- South West direction from Gombe to Afikpo, along the plains of the Benue and Cross River drainage systems. The brines issue from clays, shale, silty and arkosic sandstone, and conglomerates of upper cretaceous age. Geographically, the brine occurrences in Nigeria have been divided into two broad groups.
This report seeks to examine the financial viability or otherwise of mining rock salt in Nigeria.