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1.1       Background of the study

Exploitation of mineral resources has assumed prime importance in several developing countries including Nigeria. Nigeria is endowed with abundant mineral resources, which have contributed immensely to the national wealth with associated socio-economic benefits. Mineral resources are an important source of wealth for a nation but before they are harnessed, they have to pass through the stages of exploration, mining and processing (Adekoya, 2003; Ajakaiye, 1985). Different types of environmental damage and hazards inevitably accompany the three stages of mineral development. It is the purpose of this paper to present in a nutshell the negative effect on the environment of the activities involved in harnessing the minerals in Nigeria. An attempt will also be made to examine the possible precautions and remedies that can be applied in order to mitigate the effect of adverse environmental impact of mining activities.

Some mineral resources, notably, cassiterite (tin), columbite, tantalite, wolframite, lead, zinc, gold and coal have been exploited on a commercial scale since early part of the last century and have made significant contributions to the revenue and socio-economic development (Kogbe and Obialo, 1976). Other minerals like monazite, xenotime, zircon, thorite and molybdenite have also been produced in lesser quantities and exported. Relatively more recently, oil and gas (starting from 1957), limestone, marble and rock aggregates have been playing an increasing role in the national socio-economic development and growth because they generate appreciable internal revenue and/or foreign exchange earnings. They have, in fact, overshadowed other economic minerals by generating over 90% of the export earnings, more than 50% of the national revenue. At present, many of the minerals are at different levels of exploitation. To a large extent, the scale of operations involved in exploration, mining and processing of a mineral determines the intensity and extent of environmental degradation. Thus in general, a greater damage is witnessed in the localities where tribute workers do only manual winning of minerals. For example, large-scale mining of tin and associated minerals in the Jos Plateau has resulted in a high degree of degradation of arable land, vegetation and landscape, as well as other environmental problems. Other localities affected by large-scale environmental damage are the Niger Delta as a result of oil and gas exploration and exploitation; Sagamu, Okpilla, Ewekoro, Ashaka and Gboko owing to quarrying of limestone and the establishment of Portland cement manufacturing company; and in Enugu as a result of coal mining.

1.2   Statement of the problem

A common negative effect of mining minerals from the earth’s surface is the destruction of its natural landscape, creating open space in the ground and generating heaps of rock wastes that cannot be easily disposed. These phenomena are amply demonstrated in several parts of Nigeria, where commercial mining or quarrying had occurred in the past or is currently taking place.

Some socio-environmental problems are sometimes created as a result of certain peculiarity of the mineral industry. Since minerals are exhaustible and irrenewable commodities, the life of a mine and, consequently, the mining activities in a place have a limited time. The stoppage of mining activities imposed by depletion of the available reserves often leads to migration of people from the mining areas to other places.

1.3       Significance of the study

Mining operations normally upset the equilibrium in the geological environment, which may trigger off certain geological hazards such as landslide, subsidence, flooding, erosion and tremors together with their secondary effects. Some cases of subsidence and instability associated with draining of oil and gas from the subsurface reservoir have been reported in the Niger Delta.

This study will be of immense benefit to the government of Nigeria. It will provide a framework for the critical evaluation of the impact of resource exploitation and how it impacts on the residents of Niger delta crude oil region.

It will also benefit other researchers, forming a basis for further research on the subject in future.

1.4       Objectives of the study

The objectives of this research include but not limited to;

1.   To determine if there is significant relationship between resource exploitation and environmental impact.

2.   To ascertain the impact of resource exploitation on the Niger delta region of Nigeria.

1.5       Research questions

The following research questions will be considered in this study:

1.   Is there a significant relationship between resource exploitation and environmental impact?

2.   Does resource exploitation have any significant impact on the Niger delta region of Nigeria?

1.6   Research hypotheses

Ho: There is no significant relationship between resource exploitation and environmental impact.

Hi: There is a significant relationship between resource exploitation and environmental impact.

Ho: Resource exploitation has no significant impact on the Niger delta region of Nigeria.

Hi: Resource exploitation has significant impact on the Niger delta region of Nigeria.

1.7   Limitations of the study

The study was carried out to investigate the environmental impact of resource exploitation on crude oil mining areas in Niger delta region of Nigeria. The study is delimited to the residents of crude oil mining areas in Niger delta region. This is because of her representative nature of all crude oil mining areas in Nigeria, proximity to the researcher, time and financial constraints.

1.8   Scope of the study

This study is limited to crude oil mining area in Niger delta region of Nigeria. Therefore the study is restricted to the impact of resource exploitation on Niger delta region of Nigeria.

1.9   Definition of terms

Resource: This refers to something that a country has and can use to increase its wealth.

Exploitation:This is the use of something in order to get an advantage from it.

Resource Exploitation:This is the use of resources for economic growth, sometimes with a negative connotation of accompanying environmental degradation.

Environmental Impact:This is an analytical process that systematically examines the possible environmental consequences of the implementation of projects, programmes and policies.

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