February 20, 2017

Expert decries unexplored 230 million tonnes of iron ore

Expert decries unexplored 230 million tonnes of iron ore

By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA- FOLLOWING the upward trend in global price of mineral commodities for the past two years as oil prices went down, a mining expert and Director of Exploration at Orbitwaves Geosciences Ltd, Jerry Solomon, has decried the unexplored 230 million tonnes of iron ore deposit in Nigeria.

Solomon made the assertion while appraising activities in the country’s solid minerals sector, which largely has not been harnessed to begin the diversification of the economy.

According to him the ferrous (Fe) content of the ore ranges from 35-50 per cent and could be up to 70 per cent in places.

He said: “While the price of oil have been persistently low for close to two years now, the price of mineral commodities have sustained an upward trend for the same period with a very high jump recorded after the announcement of China’s economic stimulus package. Following the increased metal demand and analysis of commodity market outlook, an 11per cent rise in the price of mineral commodities has been forecasted for year 2017.

“Nigeria sits on many unexplored iron ore deposits of diverse origin and quality out of which the purest and largest known reserve is in Itakpe, Kogi State. A pessimistic preliminary estimate of iron ore reserves of the deposit suggests excess of 200 million tonnes. The ferrous (Fe) content of the ore ranges from 35 – 50 per cent and could be up to 70 per cent in places.

“In addition to Itakpe deposit, large reserves of sedimentary iron ore are exposed at Agbaja area in Kogi State, holding excess of 30.5 million tonnes of iron with an average assay of 50 per cent and a high of 85 per cent Ferrous content. Economic percentage of phosphorous and alumina occurred in associates with iron in the ore and can be processed as by-products.

“Ore from most of Nigerian iron ore deposits qualify for direct export Direct Shipping Ore (DSO) as they meet the 62 per cent Fe content benchmark even without beneficiation. The common gangue material in Nigeria iron ore is mostly cherty and shale which can be washed off through simple beneficiation process to upgrade them to DSO.

“While the government intensifies effort on instituting processes that will take the various mineral commodities through their value chains to end-user products, a quick win opportunity exists in mining and exporting ore as DSO to earn Foreign Exchange and a significant source of revenue that can be used to further develop the mining sector and build the required infrastructures required for economic operation of the processing plants to boost the dwindling Nigerian economy.”

However, he said the reserve figures stated here are ballpark pessimistic estimates as the true reserve of iron ore in Nigeria remains unknown due to inadequate drilling data required to conduct a standard compliant resource estimate.

Also speaking on the untapped Lead and Zinc mineral deposits the mining expert said government needs to critically look into and explore them for export.

“Lead price rose from $0.8 per pound in January 2016 to $1.08 per pound in early February 2017. Nigeria is underlain with commercial deposit of lead and zinc which mostly co-exist as Lead-Zinc ore in Northern, Central and Eastern part of the country.

“While most of the deposits remain largely unexplored, the few ones that are operated are in the hands of illegal miners and funded by foreign syndicates who recover the resources and smuggle them out of the country without report and given no credit to Nigeria.

“The Direct Shipping Ore (DSO) grades of Lead-Zinc ore typically range from 19-35% Zn, 6-20 per cent Pb, 1-4 per cent Cu, and 1-90oz Ag. While ore from most Nigerian lead-zinc deposits do not naturally meet these grades, beneficiation and upgrading ore is not a difficult feat to achieve”, he stated.