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Business News of Friday, 10 June 2022

Source: www.punchng.com

Investors may jostle for Nigeria’s barite reserves

Barite reserves Barite reserves

There are indications that investors may begin to jostle for Nigeria’s over 20 million metric tons of barite reserves.

Already, sources close to the development said the Federal Government had found an investor for the country’s over 20mn metric tons of Barites reserves.

According to findings, the Federal Government is currently working with TotalEnergies to invest in mining the country’s barites reserves.

Baryte or barite is the moderately soft crystalline mineral form of barium sulphate (BaSO4). Approximately, about 80 per cent of the barytes produced worldwide is used for oil and gas drilling as a weighing agent in the drill mud, primarily to prevent the explosive release of gas and oil during drilling.

The mineral resource can be found in various locations within the Benue Trough, Adamawa, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Gombe, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Taraba states. Studies have shown that the major producing states are Benue, Cross River, Nasarawa, and Taraba.

The PUNCH further gathered that professional bodies such as the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, and universities offering petroleum engineering in states where Nigeria has barite reserves are also involved in the project.

Before now, there has been little efforts by the government to mine barites locally, forcing local companies to resort to the importation of low quality barite from Morocco, Argentina, India and other countries to meet their needs.

Sources said about 14million MT was discovered in Cross Rivers, while 10million MT was discovered in Nasarawa and Taraba states.

“The complaint from miners is that they don’t get foreign and local investments. But we told them that investors won’t come until the country has been able to know how much reserve Nigeria has, and then the quality,” a source close to the development said.

The Director of Press, Ministry of Mines and Steel, Etore Thomas, could not be immediately reached for comments. Telephone calls and text messages sent to his phone were not responded to as of press time.

The PUNCH learnt that the study being conducted by NAPE is still at the quantification and qualification stage.

Unconfirmed sources said high grade qualities of barite such 4.4. 4.3 were found in states like Zamfara and Benue, while the low grades like 3.3, 3.9 were found in Nasarawa.

It was, however, learnt that quality as high as 4.0 could be found in Nasarawa.

The PUNCH gathered that the highest barite grade is 4.5.

A mining expert with over 42 years experience in the industry, Dr. Israel David, told The PUNCH that Nigeria has dwelt too long on raising false hope on the actual mining of barites in the country.

He said, “For the past 60 years, Nigeria keeps going back and forth with all manner of blueprints on barite. The mineral resource has been there. What I will expect is that barites should have been properly mined all over- from Benue to Taraba, Gombe, Cross Rivers, Jos, and properly processed.

“So, for someone like me; I’m not impressed, but the only thing we need is how to utilise it. Barite is principally used as drilling mud and for the past 45 years, what we do is to import Morocco and Argentina’s substandard quality, and then allow illegal artisan miners to use diggers and shovel to bring out whatever they bring. We have many other types of solid minerals but we chose to cut corners instead of doing the right thing.”

The Managing Director/Chairman, EMOTAN, a mining company, Josephine Aburime-Shine, told The PUNCH that Nigeria should take into cognizance the challenges of the local communities where the products would be mined and ensure they benefit from it.

She also advised the Federal Government to should ensure the price of the product matches international price.

“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter how many million barrels we have. What matters is that; we have to consider a few factors such as the location of where it was discovered and the quantity. We also have to consider the impact it will have on the community where it was discovered. Majority of the time, most of the mining do not benefit the communities where they are mined. So, I will say hopefully this time, the community benefits. I am not going to encourage extremely large scale mining in Nigeria because of the impact to the environment.

“Nigerian miners have been working hard for many years, but the problem is that they don’t get value for the work they do. So, producing more won’t be helpful for the country because the products we have are usually under-priced. So, doing all the hard work and exporting it while others continue to benefit more is not what we want. Nigeria needs to have a long-term plan on the fact that the minerals don’t last forever.”