Nestled in south-eastern Nigeria, Abia State harbours significant gold deposits that have attracted artisanal mining for over a century. While Abia contains oil resources, gold offers potential for economic diversification if exploited responsibly. From famous Oji River to remote villages, Abia holds great promise as a gold producer.
The Storied Oji River Belt
The Oji River area contains Abia’s best-known gold deposits, with mining dating back to colonial times in 1913. Oji’s gold seduced the British, who formed the Oji River Mining Company to exploit the region’s riches. Decades later, Oji still anchors Abia’s gold mining sector.
Alluvial gold at Oji is concentrated in modern river gravels as well as ancient terrace sands and gravels. Gold-bearing veins and mineralized zones are also hosted in Oji’s metamorphic and igneous rocks. Historic mines operated in areas like Enyimba-Nkporo, Nkwo, and Ezenyim. In the 1950s the Oji River Mining Company produced over 500 kg of gold before ceasing operations.
In the 1990s, Oji’s gold potential attracted Canadian firm Hoslab to explore the area. Hoslab identified alluvial and hard rock resources totalling approximately 770,000 ounces of gold before exiting the project. Though exploited for over a century, Oji’s gold reserves have never been comprehensively assessed using modern techniques. Further geological study and drilling could unlock substantial resources.
Rich Alluvial Deposits of Ikwuano/Ukwa
In neighbouring Ikwuano and Ukwa West LGAs, alluvial gold deposits have supported active artisanal and mechanized mining operations. Ukwa West specifically contains rich alluvial gold sedimentary units. Major mining areas include Amuda, Ariam Usaka, Ndiegoro, and Mgbarakuma.
As dredging technology improved, Ikwuano/Ukwa’s placer gold deposits have experienced rapid production growth. One mining site at Amangwu is estimated to contain over 3 million metric tonnes of gold-bearing sands. However, like at Oji, systematic geological surveys and resource estimation remain lacking despite expanded mining activity.
Obilohia’s Riverine Gold
The Obilohia area in Isiala Ngwa South reveals Abia’s gold is not confined exclusively to the northeast. Obilohia sits over 80 km southwest of Oji near the Imo State border. Gold mining takes place along river channels filled with alluvial sediments.
Obilohia’s artisanal mining zones are concentrated along the Amaokwe Item and Osokwa Item streams. Shallow pits dug by local miners tap into placer deposits within modern river gravels and sand beds. While Obilohia lacks Oji’s long mining history, its recent artisanal gold rush demonstrates Abia’s gold potential reaches across the state.
Ohafia’s Untapped Deposits
In Abia’s northwest, the Ohafia area of Bende LGA has emerged as another gold centre. Ohafia’s gold deposits include both primary bedrock sources as well as secondary alluvial placer accumulations in river sediments.
Major mining areas are clustered around the villages of Amaekpu and Amangwu. Cooperatives of local artisanal miners work extensive alluvial deposits near Amangwu, but lack modern technology and capital. Similarly, Amaekpu contains hard rock gold mineralization that could support mechanized mining if explored systematically.
Beyond its current artisanal activity, Ohafia represents an essentially untouched gold field. With renewed investment in mapping and exploration, Ohafia could reveal extensive primary gold resources amenable to large-scale development.
Smaller Deposits Across Abia
While Oji, Ikwuano/Ukwa, Obilohia, and Ohafia contain Abia’s best-known gold concentrations, the entire state likely holds valuable deposits. Smaller gold occurrences have been reported across Abia.
In the far north, gold occurrences around Bende’s Amuda and Ozuitem indicate mineralization may extend beyond Ohafia. South of Oji, placer and lode deposits exist around Arochukwu and Atani according to government surveys. And the Aro Idemili area southeast of Oji hosts gold-bearing quartz veins that have seen limited mining activity.
Though modest in scale, these peripheral gold locations add to the picture of Abia’s widespread gold endowment. They warrant further investigation as potential resources that could support artisanal or small-scale commercial mining in the future.
Further reading: Tribune Nigeria