The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, says the Federal Government will soon ban the importation of barite to help the country save foreign exchange for other useful purposes.
Adegbite, who said this when he featured as a special guest on News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) programme: Forum, noted that about $300million was spent annually to import barite from Morocco.
Barite is a mineral consisting of barium sulphate, typically occurring as colourless prismatic crystals or thin white flakes used in the oil industry and also part of the drilling mud mixture.
The minister said a consultant had been engaged by the ministry to workout modalities for sourcing barite locally and also end its importation into the country.
“Nigeria has been spending millions of dollars every year on barite. We import barite from Morocco, about 300 million dollars worth annually, and this is something we have in Nigeria.
“We have barite all over the country (in Nasarawa, Cross River States); so, why can’t we produce our barite. There are standards required by the industry and we have it.
“The first thing is that it is measured by specific gravity; do we have the specific gravity that is required? We do, but the processing is what is missing.
“When I came to office, I got a consultant to work with me on barite and we said we must take barite from the mind to the site and it is on course.
“When you mine the barites it comes like big stones and you need to crush them; when you crush them, you mill for it to become fine particles, so there is a standard and specification of the milling. The last thing is bagging.
“The bagging has to be right. Once we are able to meet that, nobody will have to import any barite in Nigeria again and we will save Nigeria the foreign exchange; we sell and as well create employment,” he said.
According to the minister, efforts are being intensified to diversify the nation’s economy, from oil-based to non-oil based, to enable it survive the imminent world recession necessitated by Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This, he said, was evident in the production and launch of the first gold bar by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 16 through the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI).
Adegbite said plans had been concluded, with a Canadian company, to enable Nigeria to begin to export gold by 2021 as part of the economy diversification plan of the present administration.
He explained that the country had a proven deposit of one million ounces of gold with a prospect of over 200 million ounces.
“We have to first of all collect data about a particular mineral to know the quantity we have and that starts from what we call Aero Magnetic Survey carried out by specialised aircraft which fly very low to be able to gather data.
“From our Aero Magnetic Survey, we know we have gold in many States – Zamfara, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, Osun and now Kwara, even FCT- but it goes beyond that.
“There is what we call ‘proven deposit’ and you achieve this by drilling.
“Now, as at today, the proven deposit that we have is over a million ounces but we believe that the prospect could be over 200 million ounces.
“We have a Canadian company in Nigeria that is working out something in Osun; they already have at least one million ounces of proven deposit.
“The plan is to start processing and exporting gold by the end of the year but, because of COVID-19, it might be in the first quarter of next year,” Adegbite said.