September 30, 2019

Sparkling International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Studies

Volume 2           Issue 3           July – September 2019           Pages 1-14


*Akanwa, A. O. & **Ikegbunam, F. I.

*_**Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Department of Environmental Management, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), P.M.B. 02 Uli, Campus, Anambra State, Nigeria.


The mining environment has been characterized by a number of risks and vulnerabilities with the implications for the attainment of the SDGs. One of these risks is the unwholesome, unregulated and unsustainable process of extracting natural resources in Nigeria. The abundance of solid minerals in the country has led to massive exploitation in various ways that has brought about dire consequences on environmental resources. This includes the ever increasing issues of climate change, landscape destruction, land cover changes, change in livelihood, endangered  animal/plant species  and  risks on human life among others are likely to sabotage environmental sustainability. There is need for a greater attention to be given to environmental and sustainable best practices in literature. Therefore, this paper assessed human actions such as mining/quarry industry and its effects on the natural environment and it also identifies the factors undermining environmental sustainability and hence, sustainable development goals. Various related studies, personal research, published and unpublished journals were reviewed. The concepts of sustainable development and best practice in quarrying/mining were adopted to critically assess the situation. The paper identified three major factors affecting increased unsustainable mineral exploitation practices that are detrimental to achieving sustainable development. It is recommended thatbest practices shouldembrace realities around participation, gender inclusion, transformation, and collaboration, integration between community and academia with social justice. Also, a code of practice should be provided for each State that will cover an environmental, social and institutional plan. This will require commitment and intense monitoring from the point of exploration, operation to closure of the extraction process.

Keywords: natural resource, environment, deforestation, sustainable development, best practice and quarrying.


Nigeria is blessed with the abundance of natural resources especially huge deposits of rocks and stones with a proven growing economic reserve of 33 types of minerals in over 400 locations (Lawal, 2001). They include granites, granodorite, gneisses, amphibolites, lime-stone, perlite, marble, ironstone, slate, rock salt and phosphate rock and many more.  They possess colours and structures that impart a particular aesthetic appearance and also rich in silica and are of high quality that gives rise to high strength concrete (Akpokodje, 1992 and Akande et al, 1992).

Globally, natural resources provide immense economic opportunities with over 20 million people from over 50 countries engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining. About 80 million to 100 million people depend on this sector for their livelihood. Further, it offers other economic benefits, in the form of direct contracts in the purchase of locally-produced goods, foreign exchange to the country and developmental projects to the host communities and their social well-being (Sosa et al., 2001, Bradshaw, 2005 and Bridge, 2008).

Recent studies have generated interest on mining as a poverty alleviation measure that mostly embraces the broader social and economic influence the sector can have within communities and nations (Mercy, 2015, Scott-Pegg, 2006, Wilison and Anderson, 1994, Kising’u, 2011 and Kuntalalahiri-Sungu, 2014). However, extensive rock mineral excavation and mining activities have become the source of current anxiety over the large scale damage on forest landscape and environment. The greatest anxiety borders on diminishing agricultural lands, deforestation and its associated exposure of top soil to various forms of erosion, vegetation modification, water pollution and watershed modification. With increasing dangers of climate change due to human activities and gaseous emissions, deforestation has been identified as a major cause toCO2 increase and emissions since mining activities require the total removal of vegetation and tree cover. This terminates the process of CO2conversion to oxygen thereby increasing greenhouse effect and global heating and escalating weather events (Akanwa et al. 2019a and Akanw et al. 2019b).  Other published works have further emphasized on the environmental consequences of mining activities (Akanwa et al. 2017a & b; Bamgbose et al, 2014, Costanzaet al., 1997; Howarth, 2002, Kuzuet al, 2011; Berry, Pistocchi, 2003 and Mathu et al, 2003).

Considering that mining industry is a significant sector that provides livelihood for millions of people around the world and produces a sizeable proportion of the world’s extractive commodities (Lafarge, 2007and Redmond, 2005).  It is necessary that a sustainable means that embraces the environmental, social, economic, institutional and operational concerns be provided with respect to this mining industry. Unfortunately, there are underlining factors that threaten the sustainability of the quarrying industry. Hence, this review provides a means of promoting the social and economic advantages of the industry while addressing the inevitable environmental consequences.

Concept of Sustainable Development and Best Practices in Quarrying

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a basic tool and a development strategy in the mining sector that could be used to address a number of social, institutional, operational and environmental concerns that are directly relevant to sustainable development. The Brundtland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED, 1987) defined sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Likewise, relying heavily on economic concepts, Robert (1986) defined sustainable development as “increasing long term wealth and wellbeing” It was not until 1993 that Mohan Munasinghe saw sustainable development as a holistic approach and began to embrace the interconnections among the economic, ecological, and socio-cultural aspects of sustainable development (Rogers, et al, 2007). According to Munasinghe, these three approaches incorporate income maximization, maintaining the resilience of the ecosystem and the stability of socio-cultural systems, respectively (Rogers et al., 2007).

To achieve sustainable development, the political system or governance interacts with one or more of these aspects (economic, ecological, and socio cultural) in varying degrees in search of optimal resource utilization to solve complicated challenges (Rogers et al., 2007).  Best practices in quarrying are highly related to the principles of sustainable development. Considering, that its overall aim is to preserve the natural resources, avoid adverse impacts on society, manage to provide the market with aggregates and contribute to economic growth (Langer, 2009).

The concept of Best Practices addresses how extractive processes can contribute to and propagate the goal of sustainable development (Commission & Development, 1987). The goal of sustainability with respect to minerals is to maintain the stream of benefits that minerals provide in such a manner that the net contribution of the resource is positive over the life cycle of quarry, and product (SARM, 2011).

Sustainable Aggregate Resource Management (SARM, 2011) defined best practices in quarrying as all activities, action, practices that may be the means and conditions for the attainment of sustainable development in quarrying. It further states that the concept of “best practice” has evolved through the years, in an effort to document successful procedures and processes undertaken by operators and/or authorities and/or regulatory agencies to achieve a good result with respect to sustainable development. It is an appropriate framework for addressing complex issues associated with aggregates development. Also, this approach supports the development of policies that reflect good science, public preferences, financial and social constraints (Solar et al, 2004). It is well known that no two operations are the same and conditions vary from one quarry site to another and from mine to mine. Hence, the best approach has evolved where methods and procedures are given more in form of “develop your own control plan based on the state-of-the-art technologies and adhere to it” than in the form of absolute numbers and formulas (SARM, 2011).

Social inclusion is also a necessary part of the concept of sustainable development and best practices. It means that ideally everyone should be given a chance to reap the benefits of economic growth and prosperity, and no one should be left behind. In most quarrying localities economic prosperity has not been properly distributed in different regions in Nigeria most of its communities are still deprived socially and economically (George et al, 2011).

Consequently, most areas where quarrying activities take place still lack access to basic necessities, employment, and economic opportunities, as well as to health services and infrastructure (Akanwa, 2016). In order to achieve sustainable development in quarrying practice in Nigeria, the capacity of social inclusion should be improved upon through economic development of adjoining quarry communities. Indeed, achieving social inclusion is one of the main visions of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development (United Nations, 2010). That vision is defined as a “society for all” in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play (United Nations, 2010). Narrowing the gaps in material conditions among these people can not only improve lives but also lead to sustainable development. Since the process of quarrying can fundamentally alter the climate, it is imperative to promote economic development and human wellbeing while at the same time taking responsible best practice actions to preserve the capability of our environment to sustain our natural resources and ecological systems (SARM, 2011).

Consequences of Mining/Quarrying Activities in Nigeria

The quarrying operations in Nigeria are mainly for sourcing large supplies of raw materials for the construction industry and other metallic and non-metallic industrial minerals (Olusegun et al, 2009). In 1996, the Nigerian quarry industry has shown a gradual growth from nine government owned quarries in operation which produced an estimated 75-300 tonnes of stone aggregates per hour for the construction industry to a record of 1800 quarries with an estimated 180 mining titles.

No doubt, quarry industry has a positive regional importance with benefits dispersed over very large areas; it is common for the community where extraction occurs, to suffer most of the adverse consequences of resource development (Langer, 2001, Aggregates Industries, 2007and Akanwa et al, 2016 and Akanwa and Ikegbuman, 2017b). Consequently, mining process in developing countries can have negative effects on the environment; but the necessity and economic returns of mining is undeniable especially as a source of livelihood.

Quarrying process in Nigeria involves an open excavation from which useful stone is extracted for building and engineering purposes (Akabzaa and Darimani, 2001). It employs the use of both heavy machines and manual labour (Akanwa et al., 2016 and Akanwa and Ikegbunam, 2017b). The series of operations have been found to be environmentally disruptive and as such result in negative effects as proper siting, design; construction, operation and follow-up monitoring are mostly absent before and after the process (Environmental Guidelines, 1993 and Redmond, 2005).

The traditional opencast quarrying method is commonly used during quarrying operations in most rural areas where operations are carried out (Akanwa et al., 2016). In Nigerian cities, stone quarrying, is executed without regard to surrounding ecosystems and geologic conditions. Hence, they can easily disrupt the balance of wildlife, plant life, and water bodies in the area (Akanwa, 2016, Bamgbose et al, 2014 and Mathu et al, 2003).

Surface mining/quarrying approach is fundamentally prone to alter the essential ecosystem services such as climate regulation, water supply, nutrient cycling, and food production by putting them under pressure (Daily, 1995, Costanza et al., 1997; Howarth, 2002, Kuzuet al, 2011; Berry, Pistocchi, 2003 and Akanwa et al, 2016). Itcan represent a major perturbation to the natural landscape, creating significant impacts on the soil, vegetation, creation of grossly uneven topography, loss of soil fertility, surface crusting and soil erosion, fauna and habitat loss (Sort and Alcaniz 1996, Clemente et al., 2004 and Moreno-Penaranda et al., 2004, Akanwa et al, 2016 and Sharma and Roy 1997).

The environmental losses caused by quarrying activities are also significant in developed countries. For example, Greenpeace International (2010) reported that in United States, between 1930 and 2000, quarrying has altered about 2.4 million hectares (5.9 million acres) of vegetation, most of it originally forest. Further attempts to re-seed land destroyed by quarrying activities are difficult because the process has so thoroughly damaged the soil surface. Obviously, there is a link between quarrying process and a degraded environment in spite of its socio-economic benefits. It can have considerable biological and physical effects especially on the landscape and vegetation (BBC, 2014, Langer, 2002b and Akanwa et al, 2016).

In order for human civilization to continue we need the retrieval of resources from quarries for urban development and industrial production (Langer, 2001). Clearly, a balance is required in quarry exploitation by the application of best practices which is in line with the principles of sustainable development. This concern over resource exploitation, scarcity and economic development posed by the capacities of natural environment go back to about 200 years (Morgan, 2008).

Sustainable Approach to Aggregates (SARM, 2011) indicated that environmentally, for a quarry to contribute to sustainable development, it must abandon ad hoc approaches to environmental management, and adopt a more proactive and preventive stance. Unfortunately, the present approaches administered in quarrying operation has made a number of critical environmental issues and obstacles to become inadequately addressed in Nigerian quarrying industry (Minerals Commission, 2001 and Bamgboseet al 2014).

Huge environmental problems continued to become prominent in areas where such resources were quarried. These communities most times become the poorest and most unhealthy areas, income and wealth inequalities, unequal access to affordable housing and healthcare, degraded landscapes, noise pollution, air pollution, ground vibrations, air pollution, lack of amenities and infrastructures and loss of farmlands, vegetation and arable lands (Akanwa, 2016, Akanwa et al, 2017a, Okeet al; 2010; Lameed et al. 2008, Chaoji, 2009, Jegede, et al., 2011; Mallo, 2012).

Major Factors Affecting Aggregates Industry in Nigeria

Majority of these environmental problems are escalated by certain factors that affect the way aggregates are explored in the country. First of all, the general perception of the quarry industry in the country is flawed as it is approached mainly as a money making venture without taking sustainable considerations on the environment, human health and wellbeing. This ultimately affects the quarry operations from inception till the resources are fully depleted leaving behind quarry pits and a polluted surrounding (Akanwa, 2017b). Majority of these problems are traceable to many factors. Drawing from the studies mentioned above illegal quarry practices, increased population demand and lack of enforcement of regulations and laws are major challenges in Nigeria.

(a) Illegal Quarrying Practices

In Nigeria illegal quarrying operations continue to be a threat to the development of the nation’s economy. These illegal operations tend to undermine the goals of sustainable development (Rogers, et al, 2007). As these operations are carried out by quarrying firms in ways that  not in compliance with the Nigerian Minerals and Metal Act, Mining regulations and other extant laws such as that of the council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG). To buttress this, Ruth (2014) has revealed that over 600 licenses had been revoked due to non compliance with the guiding laws on the mineral and mining sector, adding that the Federal government was set to shut down mining operations that do not conform to these regulations.

Illegal quarrying and mining operations have severe effects including the loss of revenue to the federal government, where royalties and taxes that should be paid on such quarrying operations are denied and not paid to the proper authorities. Environmental degradation is a resultant effect of illegal quarrying. In this process, the operators quarry stone resources without consideration for proper remediation of the environment. Daily African (2013) reported that the Nigerian Senate Committee on Environment has threatened to shut down the five stone quarrying companies operating at Mpape, a suburb of Abuja, for non- compliance with environmental safety laws. They threatened shutting down the quarrying operations of Hongyum Company Limited and also threatened the revocation of the license of Perfect Stone Quarry.

The Daily Independent (2013) reported that in Cross River State fifteen (15) quarries were shut down as a result of non-compliance with State policies and illegal operation. This is because they did not operate within the constituted laws guiding the sector. As part of measures to enforce the laws, the Perfect Stone Quarry was denied of exploration renewal as a result of poor safety precautions and operations of the Hongyum Quarry there was no renewal for further operations for the next five years as everything about their activities proved environmentally wrong.

It is unfortunate that such illegal operations unleash poverty on the host community. They are denied of gainful employment and other benefits that should come to them as a result of housing such minerals in their community (Langer, 2001 and Akanwa, 2016). One of the resultant problems is rehabilitating pits or quarries. The reclamation of abandoned pits contributes to the reduction of environmental impacts of aggregate extraction (Solar et al, 2004).

(b) Increased Population Demand on Quarry Industry

Another causative factor is the increased demand for quarry products/operations by the population. This has placed more demands on un-renewable mineral resources and stimulated an investment surge in stone quarrying exploration worldwide particularly in developing countries (Okeke, 2008; Mahtani, 2008 and Langer, 2004). It is estimated that over 13 million people in about 30 countries across the world are engaged in quarrying/mining (World Bank Report, 2012). The growing population has increased pressure on natural resources in the environment.

There is an estimated 25,000 mines in the world producing industrial minerals and 100,000 quarries producing aggregates for construction purposes (Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community NACE, 2013). As at 2009 in Nigeria, a registered record of 1003 quarry sites spread across the Country (Murtala, 2011; Nigeria Bureau of Statistics 2008 and Oyibe, 2000). Presently, thousands of privately owned and corporate quarries are scattered in different parts of the country especially in remote communities feeding local contractors (Nigerian Mining Corporation, 1996 and Akanwa, 2016).

Locations with large deposits of mineral resources will attract more people with accelerated exploration of minerals taking place. For example Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja has the highest concentration of quarries with an estimated market value of about US$16 million in 2009 (Murtala, 2011). Furthermore, Federal Republic of Nigeria Gazette (2007) reported that the total population of the country is over 140million and with a growth rate of 3.2%. This implies that the nation would double its size in 22 years and definitely with increased pressure on resources, social amenities and infrastructures.

It is quite unfortunate to note that most urban areas in Nigeria have grown beyond their environmental carrying capacities, exerting pressure on existing infrastructures (NPC, 2008). Population demand and pressure has brought about environmental stress such as reduction of ecosystem complexity, loss of biodiversity and the alteration of the all essential biogeochemical cycle (Asthana and Asthana 2006).

(c) Lack of Enforcement of Regulations and Laws

In a bid to monitor and control environmental problems efforts have been made through the passage of legislations in all areas of life. Nigeria is not lacking in availability of environmental laws. The threshold of environmental legislation in Nigeria was FEPA, and presently NESREA (Establishment) Act, 2007. The Agency has the responsibility of enforcing all environmental laws, regulations, guidelines, and standards. This responsibility also extends to enforcing conventions, treaties and protocols on the environment to which Nigeria is a signatory.

In enforcing the environmental laws for better environmental outcomes the Agency partners with relevant stakeholders at the Federal, State and Local Government levels; including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), State Planning Authorities, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Faith Based Organizations (FBOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), International Community Donor Agencies and other law enforcement agencies. The key elements of the Agency’s enforcement strategies include inspection, compliance, monitoring, negotiation and legal Action (Musa et al, 2015).

Despite its significant level of success since its inception, it has also faced constraints and challenges in the enforcement of environmental Laws in Nigeria. They include inadequate awareness amongst policy makers who relegate environmental matters to the background. Further, problems include inadequate awareness of the judiciary, inadequate wildlife handling, infrastructure, field equipment and transportation all of which hamper effective enforcement. There is also difficulty in getting   police cooperation in terms of arrest and custodial facilities, poor level of wildlife research to establish the status of the nation’s endangered species and lack of effective supranational adjudicating bodies for global environment encourages trans boundary movement of waste and hazardous chemicals and  among others (Musa et al, 2015).

Due to these setbacks extractive industries take advantage of the generally weak capacity of developing countries occasioned by weak regulations and weak enforcements, prevalence of poverty and illiteracy of the indigenous people in areas of stone and mineral extraction which has become a recipe for conflicts (Owusu – Koranteng, 2005). The weak mining regulations existing in developing nations contribute to the externalization of environmental cost of mining and thus help companies to achieve their profit maximization objectives (Walde, 1992). However, sustainable development goals can only be realized when development policies integrate economic and natural resource management planning (Conway 2005).

Policy Implications

Having examined quarry industry in Nigeria, the prevalent practices, operations and challenges while establishing a link between quarrying and a degraded environment. The major causes that affect quarry industry in Nigeria were also highlighted. It becomes necessary to suggest best practice initiatives in quarrying so as to achieve its sustainability. It is imperative to promote economic development through activities like quarrying while at the same time taking responsible actions to preserve the capability of the environment to sustain our natural and ecological systems and human well-being (Morgan, 2008).

Achieving sustainable development in Nigeria requires that certain changes need to take place mostly in the way exploitation is perceived and in the exploitation process itself. Limiting environmental impacts from aggregate quarrying in developed countries commonly requires the best management practices. This includes both institutional changes by the competent authorities, as well as application of novel exploitation techniques by the operators, which should be consistent with the future (SARM, 2011). This is available in handbooks and guidelines published by various organizations including government offices and industry associations.  Industry practices are advanced in many industrialized countries that aggregate extraction adhere to best management practices as a temporary activity, rather than a permanent one (Wellmer and Becker-Platen, 2002).

It requires a set of guidelines, ethics or ideas that represent the most efficient or prudent courses of action. Best practices are often set forth by an authority, such as a governing body or management, depending on the circumstances. While best practices generally dictate the recommended course of actions, some situations require that such practices be followed depending on the situation and the peculiar needs that should be met (Natural Stone Industry, 2009).


Quarrying operations constitute an essential part of any rural or urban development and serves several undeniable functions. The continuous growth of the quarry industry in Nigeria without effective management practices of the numerous clandestine operations has led to dire environmental consequences. These problems have been escalated by three major factors as reviewed in this study namely illegal quarrying, increased population demand and lack of enforcement of policies and regulation.

This review suggests that the Nigerian quarry industry will require an improvement in the enforcement of quarry plans and monitoring of the entire quarry process from inception to its closure. It is necessary that government regulating bodies should develop best practice in quarrying for every State which should cover environmental compliance, royalty payments, employment of citizens, and proper preservation/storage of quarrying explosives, forestation and conserving forest areas, provisions of a conducive working environment as well as meeting community social responsibility among others.

This involves proactive efforts and protective actions as a joint effort among residents, private investors, local business owners, stakeholders, representatives from native men and women groups, agricultural and nonprofit agencies, and higher education research entities (Natural stone industry, 2009).


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To cite this article

Akanwa, A. O., & Ikegbunam, F. I. (2019). Natural Resource Exploitation in Nigeria: Consequences of Human Actions and Best practices for environmental Sustainability – A Review. Sparkling International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Studies, 2(3), 1-14.

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