Nigeria used to be one of the largest producers of tin in the world, with production based around the highland district of Jos. Production collapsed from an average of 10,000 tonnes per year in the 1970's to 300 tonnes in 1995. Tin reserves are estimated at 16,000 tonnes. Independent estimates place iron ore reserves at 800 million tonnes, averaging 37 % metal content. Iron ore mining began in 1984 and 1989 reported a stockpile of over 500,000 tonnes. By 1997, it was unlikely that iron output was more than 50,000 tonnes per year. Iron ore deposits are being exploited with the long-term aim of supplying the requirements of the national steel industry. Deposits of uranium, lead, zinc, tungsten and gold are not yet exploited. There are 65 sites in Nigeria where gold has been located. By mid-1999, field appraisals had recommended nine as being ready for exploitation.
The petroleum sector is the mainstay of the economy, contributing 36% to annual GDP, 75% to government revenues and accounting for virtually all foreign exchange earnings. At end-1998, total oil reserves were estimated at 22.5 bn barrels, sufficient to give close to another 30 years of output. Nigeria ranks as the sixth largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and by far the largest in Africa.
Proven and probable reserves of natural gas stood at 3.5 trillion cu metres (124 trillion cu feet) at end-1998. Natural gas production in 1998 was 5.2 bn cu metres (184.6 bn cu feet), a rise of 0.9 % on 1997 output. The US$569m Escravos gas project became Nigeria's first gas exporter in 1997. A West African gas pipeline, at an estimated cost of US$260m is planned, which will supply natural gas from the Escravos field to Togo, Benin and Ghana.
The US$4bn Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Scheme, Africa's single biggest engineering project, started producing liquefied natural gas at the plant at Bonny Island, near Port Harcourt, in 1999, then civil unrest in the Niger Delta region interrupted production. However, the new approach adopted by President Yar’Adua's Administration in resolving the Niger Delta crisis has started to have a positive impact on peace and oil production in the area. By August 2009, Nigeria's oil production has reached the 1.7 million bpd, this being the country's OPEC quota; having fallen to barely 1 million bpd in the last year.