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Published: 18th January 2011
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Nigeria is endowed with numerous mineral resources and in order to increase the less than 1% solid minerals sector currently contributes to the Gross Domestic Product {GDP} of the country, Nigeria needs to make concerted effort to drive investment in the mining and processing {beneficiation} of the over thirty five {35} commercially available minerals that have been discovered in the country.

Niobium ore is one of such mineral and as been mined as columbite for a long time in Nigeria. Columbite, an ore for niobium, occurs in association with tin deposits on the Jos Plateau, and in Bauchi and Kano states. Nigeria is among the world's leading exporters of columbite with proven reserves of 14,000 tones.

Niobium Ore (Nb2O5) is used principally as an additive to improve the strength and corrosion resistance of steel. Due to its refractive nature, it has gained application in jet engine components manufacture, rocket assemblies, and heat resisting and combustion equipment.

Niobium ores contain a certain quantity of tantalum. A distinction is made between niobium ores, in which the Nb2O5: Ta2O5 ratio is greater than 20:1, and tantaloniobium ores, where the ratio is 3:1 to 20:1. The main niobium minerals that are components of niobium ores are columbite, (Fe,Mn)(Nb,Ta)2-O6, containing 5076 percent Nb2O5, and pyrochlore, (Ca,Na)2(Nb,Ta,Ti)2O6(OH,F), in which the Nb2O5 content is 4070 percent. Less important minerals include fergusonite, Y(Nb,Ta)O4 (3858 percent Nb2O5); euxenite, Y(Nb,Ti,Ta)2O6 (2134 percent); and loparite, (Na,Ce,Ca) (Ti,Nb,Ta)O3 ((720 percent). The minimum content of Nb2O5 at which native niobium ores may be worked profitably is 0.150.20 percent; the average content of Nb2O5 in most niobium ore deposits is 0.20.6 percent. Rich deposits contain 14 percent Nb2O5.

At the moment no functional mechanized Niobium mine in production exist in Nigeria, incongruous to its status as one time major global Niobium Ore producer. Major suppliers to export buying companies in Nigeria are artisanal miners.

With the exception of the granite quarry much of the nations mining operations are still done by artisanal miners with crude implement thereby affecting the output of mine and leading to a situation where the mined products are sold below market price because of lack of value addition. The development of a mechanized small scale Niobium Pentoxide (Nb2O5) concentrates mining project with a 5 ton per month capacity at the start of mining, beneficiation, processing and trading as been estimated to cost $ 400,000 - $500,000.

The local market for Niobium Ore in Nigeria is established and sustainable and the price is at an average of $7.00 per Kilogram $7,000.00 per ton average. This is about a third of what is attainable at international spot price.

One key feature of mining Niobium ore is that little quantity of the material is required to be mined in order to realize high profit margins.

The main stages of processing are:

1. Blasting
2. Crushing
3. Gravity concentration to remove the gangue minerals as well as producing a Niobium ore concentrate
4. Processing to further upgrade beneficiated ore.

Some of the investment incentives in the solid minerals industry in Nigeria include

3-5 years Tax Holiday
Deferred royalty payments
Possible capitalization of expenditure on exploration and surveys
 Extension of infrastructure such as roads and electricity to mining sites, and provision of 100% foreign ownership of mining concerns.

Interested investors can be assisted with securing a mine and should you require a market report/feasibility study on the above subject matter, please do contact the writer.

Anaekwe Everistus Nnamdi is a Business Development Consultant by day and blogs on investment opportunities in Nigeria by Night. He is the administrator of ,a forum focused on business in Nigeria.

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You can reach the writer on + 234 {0} 8033782777, +234 {0} 7082530855 or

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