Top 10 Natural Resources in Benin and Their Uses

The Republic of Benin is a small country located in Western Africa between Nigeria in the west and Togo in the east, it is bordered by Niger and Burkina Faso in the north and the Bight of Benin in the south the country has a total population of 12.2 million of 2020 with a total land area 112,622 km2.  

The Benin Republic has its capital city to be at Port Novo, a port on an inlet of the Gulf of Guinea, however its largest and most economic capital is Cotonou.

The country is relatively flat, with a granitic plateau in the center of the country which rises to the Atakora mountain range in the northwest.

The highest point is at an elevation of 658 meters above sea level. The country’s climate is tropical.

Benin’s natural resources are limited as there are not many natural resources found in the country, making the country’s economy to be solely dependent on agriculture which helps them to address issues relating to necessities such as water, electricity, transport, and other infrastructure needs.

Natural Resources in Benin Republic

 1. Marble

Marbles are calcareous metamorphic rocks that are formed from limestone due to the action of pressure and geological processes. Marble also has a firm crystalline structure and slight porosity.

Marbles are generally available in different colors due to the presence of various minerals like sand, silt, and clay. While their mineral content can vary depending on the limestone impurities, the main constituent though is calcite which is a mineral form of calcium carbonate.

Marbles in Benin are not found in commercial deposits in the country. They are principally used for buildings and monuments, interior decoration, statuary, table tops, and novelties.


Uses of Marble                                                                                        

  • Marble has often been considered the stone for Buildings and Sculptures for instance a close observation of ancient buildings and monuments shows that they have been made using marble. E.g the Taj Mahal building
  • Crushed marble is often used as construction aggregate and is used as a fill brightener, filler, and pigment.
  • Extremely white marbles are used to manufacture a white powder which is popularly known as whiting.
  • Some marble can be heated to form calcium oxide which is also known as lime. And this compound is used in agriculture for treating the soil and basically to reduce the soil acidity and also in the combination with fertilizers to improve the yield of soil.
  • Powdered marble is also used in water treatment and as an acid-neutralizing agent in the chemical industry.
  • Powdered marbles are also often used to produce animal supplements due to their soluble nature, and richness in calcium.

2. Gold

In Benin, gold has been produced in very small quantities by artisanal miners in the past. It occurs in primary and alluvial forms in various deposits and occurrences.

The gold-bearing region in Benin is underlain by Proterozoic magmatic gneiss. The gold mineralization is associated with veins hosted in quartzite, mica schist, schist, and amphibolite, outcropping in faults.

Gold mineralization is also associated with sulfides and tourmaline, occurring in three forms: native free gold, tellurides, and combined or included in sulfide minerals.

The best-known gold mineralization is associated with conglomerates in quartzites of the Togo Group in north-western Benin.

Gold mining in Benin is done primarily by artisanal miners, from gold veins near the villages of Kwatena, Tchantangou, Alibori, and in the Atakora Mountains.

Alluvial gold is panned from the Perma River and its tributaries. Fears were expressed that jihadists could exploit the artisanal gold workings in Benin as a means to fund themselves.

However, In recent years more potentially economical gold mineralization was identified in the Alibori region.

As of 2020 statistics shows that Benin exported about $265 million worth of gold, making them the 72nd largest exporter of gold in the world, and in the same year gold was the 2nd  main export product in the country.


Uses of Gold

Gold is put to all kinds of uses which are:

  • Gold is used in dentistry due to its non-toxic composition and malleable nature, gold has been featured in dentistry for over 3,000 years.
  • It is a means of foreign exchange as it is seen as an export product to other countries, thereby boosting Benin Republic’s GDP.
  • Gold is also non-corrosive, so has been used extensively in bridgework, fillings, and crowns.
  • It is used in space by its act as a filter to harmful UV rays from the sun, a thin layer of gold is applied to the visors of astronaut helmets as well as their suits. Space vehicles also leverage the properties of gold to stabilize core temperatures and reflect infrared radiation.
  • Extravagant dishes in fine dining restaurants and bars utilize golf leaves or shavings in their dishes or beverages.
  • It is used as a raw material in cosmetics and Beauty
  • Gold is contained in Computers and electronics due to its ability to conduct electricity, Other older items like cameras and radios tend to have gold within their circuit boards.
  • Every mobile device in circulation contains a quantity of gold.
  • Gold is primarily used as a pigment in specialty glass. Gold has climate-controlling properties, which sees it utilized in glass for buildings (to keep them cool) and even jet windshields (to help defrost them at high altitudes).

3. Cotton

Cotton is the number-one agricultural commodity in Benin and accounts for over 40% of the country’s GDP. Benin republic is the fourth largest cotton producer in Africa alongside Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali topping the chart and the 12th largest producer in the world with about 728 thousand tons of cotton as of 2018 and also the largest producer of textiles, is the result of the enormous production of cotton annually.

As Benin’s most important export item, cotton accounts for an estimated 80% of the country’s annual exports and 40% of the country’s GDP. However, cotton is mostly exported as bales having only 3% of total production processed locally, making the country heavily dependent on world cotton prices.

The results of proper management practices soon became apparent, with cotton production in the country soaring in the subsequent years. Cotton production in 2016-2017 in Benin was among the highest to be recorded in the country.

Between November 2016 and June 2017, a total of 0.453 million tons of cotton was produced in the country. To put the impressive production into perspective, the country produced a total of 0.26 million tons in the whole of 2017.

Over two million population of Benin rely on cotton farming as a source of livelihood, with most farmers possessing approximately two hectares of farmland growing cotton crops in rotation with other crops.

In the country, cotton production relies on two regions; the Northern Regions and South Central Regions. Over the years, cotton farming has played a crucial role in the export and a massive boom in the textile industry in the Benin Republic.


Uses of Cotton

Cotton is used for various purposes which are:

  • Cotton provides thread used in cotton gin, which is used for both domestic and industrial purposes.
  • Cotton is used to make comfortable and breathable textiles.
  • By weaving, cotton fiber can be used in making fabrics such as flannel, velvet, velour, and corduroy for the making of exceptional clothing.
  • It can also be used to make essential tools such as fishnets, bookbinding, and coffee filters to make your life easier and more productive.
  • Cotton can also serve as food for cattle because of its edible nature.
  • Cotton seed oils are in high demand nowadays as they are cheaper than vegetable oil and add flavor to food. Restaurants are using it to deep fry their fast foods. By crushing cotton seeds, oils can be produced.
  • It can be used in the production process of materials like rubber and plastic.
  • Cotton is used in the production of cosmetic and soap products.
  • Pharmaceutical companies also utilize cotton in the making of their product. Such as first aid kit often holds cotton.
  • Cotton is used in the paper sector for the creation of highly excellent papers that are sought by professionals that require a difficult copy of their documents to last the test of time.
  • Cotton is used to make beautiful crafty cloth bags.

4. Crude Oil

The Benin Republic has once been known for oil production though not in larger quantity. Oil was first discovered in the early 1980s and was harnessed from 1982 by the Norwegian oil company until 2004 when production ceased.

Oil production in of the late 1980s was favorable to the nation as the period was known as their Golden Period when the country was producing about 8000 barrels of oil per day as of 1986.

The Benin Republic rose to become a major contributor to Africa’s oil industry in 1991 by producing about 1.3 million barrels each day.

Between 1991 to 2002 oil was the major source of boost in the country’s economy but then the country had no functional refinery as they rely on imported oil products.

Oil production in the country began to decline in the 21st Century and ceased altogether in 2004. However, plans were made to revive the country’s oil industry.

Oil production was slated to restart in 2014 after a Nigerian company secured rights to produce oil from Benin’s offshore sites.

According to estimates from the company, one of the offshore sites, Seme block 1, has the potential to produce an average of 7,500 barrels of oil each day, which mirrors the peak production figures recorded in the 1980s.

The immense oil deposits found in Benin’s offshore sites make the country attractive to major players in the oil industry.

Major petroleum companies such as Petroleo Brasileiro, the South Atlantic Petroleum Company, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have interests in the country’s offshore oil blocks.

However, with plans to open an oil refinery not being voiced, the country will have to continue importing refined oil products.

Crude Oil

Uses of Crude Oil

  • Petroleum provides the ingredients that are essential in products like soaps, detergents, and paints.
  • It produces gasoline used to fuel cars
  • Crude oil produces heating oil used to heat buildings and diesel fuel
  • Jet fuel is gotten from petroleum
  • Crude oil provides residual fuel oil for powering factories, fueling large ships, and making electricity
  • Crude oil is used in the production of Plastics.

5. Phosphate

Phosphate is a sedimentary rock formed millions of years ago by the accumulation of organic matter on the ocean floor. It is a natural resource used in the processing of phosphorus.

An element that provides a quarter of all the nutrients that plants need.  In the past, sedimentary phosphate deposits were mined in large quantities along the Mekrou River in the northern regions of the Benin Republic.


Uses of phosphate

  • Phosphate rock is processed to produce phosphorous, which is one of the three main nutrients most commonly used in fertilizers (the other two are nitrogen and potassium).
  • Phosphate can be used in everything from food and cosmetics to animal feed and electronics when turned into phosphoric acid.

6. Iron Ore

Iron ore deposits are found in sedimentary rocks, which are essentially rocks that have been formed over time from the accumulation of different sediments. It can be extracted when heated in the presence of a reducing agent, such as coke.

The two most important minerals extracted from iron ore are iron oxides hematite and magnetite.  Similarly, in the Benin Republic, low-grade iron ore deposits have been discovered at Loumbou-Loumbou and Madekali in the Borgou district.

The exploration surveys estimate the deposits to have more than 500 million tons of ore.

Iron Ore

Uses of Iron ore

  • The two oxides of iron (hematite and magnetite) are used to produce just about every iron and steel object you can imagine.
  • The vast majority of iron ore is used to produce iron which is in turn used to produce steel.

7. Fish

Fish is another important natural resource of Benin due to the richness of its rivers and coastal features such as lagoons. The country’s rivers and lagoons are also important sources of fish.

Benin has a long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. The coast sits on one of the richest fishing spots in the region, making fish another important natural resource of Benin.

Fish exports from the country were estimated to be 41,900 tons and valued at about $1.9 million in 2003. Some examples of Fish species found in the country are tilapia, Catfish, Carp, Shark, Mudfish, Croaker, Mackerel, Dogfish, etc.

Interestingly, the biggest players in the fishing industry in Benin are foreign-based fishers including those from Senegal and Ghana, since the majority of Benin fishers practice small-scale fishing.

One major player in the country’s fishing industry is Awa Fish which is involved in packaging and storing fish destined for local and international markets.

The company works in a model that provides small-scale fishers in the country with a ready market for their fish which the company processes, helps them grow their fishes, and sells to external markets. Awa Fish has the capacity of processing more than 700 tons of fish each year.


Uses of Fish

Fish and other aquatic organisms have been of great importance to man in so many ways which are:

  • Fishes are consumed every day by man, they are rich protein sources and are delicious to taste.
  • Consumption of fish can help to prevent various types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, skin, and hair problems, and they also help in keeping the brain stimulated
  • They can also assist in controlling diseases like malaria, yellow fever, and other dreadful diseases that are spread through mosquitoes. For example, Larvivorous fish eat larvae of mosquitoes and the important larvivorous fish are Gambusia, Panchax, Haplochitus, and Trichogaster.
  • The pancreas of shark is very rich in insulin as much as Whales provides a considerable quantity of insulin.
  • Most farmers not only engage in fishing but also engage in the raising of fish (fish farming) which aids their feeding and takes care of their families.
  • From the sales of fish and fish products, a huge amount of money is realized serving as a source of income for both the farmer and his workers.
  • The oil obtained from fish is used for the production of fish body oil which is different from fish liver oil.
  • Fish serve as a Source of animal Feed which is seen in the use of brown powder which is made from both the whole fish and the bones while offal is made from processed fish which is used as a high-protein supplement in aquaculture feed.
  • Fish is used in the production of Fish Flour (Hydrolized Protein)
  • The residual part of the liquid which is obtained during the extraction process of fish oil is known as fish soluble and are valuable additives to dry feeds for animals.
  • Fish is used to Produce Fish Biscuits

8. Sand

Sand is a multi-purpose topographical material. It is known as one of the three fundamental ingredients in concrete. The composition of sand is diverse.

Mostly sand is made of silica which is a common element. It can also come from other sources of minerals like quartz, limestone, or gypsum.

The sand was mined excessively along the beach; the mining of beach sand was outlawed. The mining of sand deposits moved inland, but there has been severe backlash from the affected communities.


Uses of Sand

Is one of the most common substances on earth, and has a multitude of uses! It has been used by people for thousands of years.

  • The sand was first used as a simple way to polish and sharpen tools due to its abrasive texture.
  • During the medieval period, and was even used to tell the time, using hourglasses.
  • The most prolific user of sand is the construction industry where it is almost vital for almost every aspect of a building project.
  • Sand is used in everything from cement and concrete to plastering, roofing, grouting, and painting.
  •  It is also used to help defend buildings from flooding when it’s in sandbags.
  • The silica in the sand is also perfect for creating glass, both for windows and ceramic glass glazes.
  • It is also used in plastic and metal production, where it helps to lower the metal’s melting point and viscosity to make them more efficient to work with.
  • It is abrasive qualities are used in sandblasting, and on a smaller scale as sandpaper, just like some of the earliest users of sand did.
  • Sand is also essential for many recreational purposes. It is used for the creation of playing surfaces, such as baseball and volleyball courts.
  • It is also in golf course bunkers and is even used as part of a swimming pool’s filtering system. From beds to flood plains to coastlines.
  • Sand can be used for cleaning up oil leaks or any spill by dredging sand on that spill. The material will form clumps by soaking up, and we can quickly clean the mess.
  • Sand can be used as a road base which is a protective layer underneath all roads
  • We use sand in aquariums, fabricating artificial fringing reefs, and in human-made beaches
  • Sandy soils are ideal for growing crops, fruits, and vegetables like watermelon, peaches, peanuts, etc.
  • Sand helps to improve resistance (and thus traffic safety) in icy or snowy conditions.

9. Limestone

Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), usually in the form of calcite or aragonite.

It may contain considerable amounts of magnesium carbonate (dolomite) as well; minor constituents also commonly present include clay, iron carbonate, feldspar, pyrite, and quartz.

Limestone has been discovered in Benin though not in large quantity.


Uses of Limestone

  • Limestone is used extensively in road and building construction and is a material found in aggregate, cement, building stones, chalk, and crushed stone
  • Limestone compounds can be quarried and crushed into smaller bits or particles to be used as agricultural lime in the neutralization of soil acidity in the farming sector.
  • Limestone powder can be used by industries in the production of textile, paint, paper, rubber, glass, and plastic industries among others.
  • It is used in the steel industry for the production process where limestone is used to remove impurities.
  • The minerals found in limestone are also used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetic products, baking soda, toothpaste, etc.

10. Water Resources

Benin extends from the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Guinea) in the south to the Niger River in the north, a distance of around 700 km. The main rivers in the north of Benin are tributaries of the Niger River, and flow northwards, out of the country.

The main perennial river in the south of Benin is the Oueme River, which, along with some other smaller rivers, drains into the network of lagoons which has developed along the coast there is no natural river discharge directly into the Atlantic Ocean.

There are 48 river flow gauging stations maintained by the General Directorate of Water (DG-Eau) across Benin. Average monthly precipitation for Benin shows minimum and maximum (light blue), 25th and 75th percentile (blue), and median (dark blue).

Water availability in the Benin Republic varies as it can be gotten from boreholes with electric pumps, hand pumps and foot pumps, modern and traditional wells, and traditional and improved springs.

Uses of the Water Resources

  • The main uses of groundwater in Benin are domestic supply and usage(both urban and rural)
  • For agriculture, livestock, and fish farming,
  • For tourism and vacation e.g beaches
  • It serves industrial purposes
  • It is a source of livelihood as many fishermen draw their income from aquatic lives
  • It serves as a means of transportation.


In the Benin Republic, natural resources are limited as there are not many natural resources found in the country making the country solely depend on agriculture as their means of the economy which is in their cultivation, harvesting, and importation of cotton. As they have been identified as the largest cotton produced in the continent and 12th in the world.


Environmental Consultant at Environment Go!

Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.

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