The recently created Ministry of Solid Mineral Development has been a major stimulus to the Nligerian mining industry. It offers a viable alternative to petroleum for foreign exchange earning. Globally, the mining industry has been a close rival to the petroleum industry, although Nigeria earns currently a paltry $89 million per annum from it. With the restoration of democratic government, bright prospects for solid minerals development await the nation.
Several factors will stimulate the mining sector. First is the diversity of Nigeria's metallic and nonmetallic minerals. Second, international investors are prepared to bear exploration costs and risks, given a favourable policy framework. The new national solid mineral policy of the Federal Government, which replaced the old mining laws and regulations, has offered a competitive environment for solid minerals development.
Third, there is available, on the international technology market, low-cost mineral production processes which, if properly sourced and assembled, will minimise production costs, thereby ameliorating the impact of falling mineral commodity prices as has been the case with precious metals and gold. Deregulation of the mining sector under the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council Decree 1995 allows for 100 per cent foreign ownership of mining operations and other related enterprises.
Free repatriation of capital, profits and dividends are added incentives. World Bank finance for mining is now readily available through several agencies. These include the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD); the International Finance Corporation which funds mostly private sector activities; and the International Development Association.