By Gabriel EWEPU
THE Minister of Mines and Steel Development, AbubakarBwari, disclosed that Nigeria spends N16 billion ($44.5 million) on imported industrial minerals yearly to carry out production in the solid minerals sector.
Bwari made this known in his keynote address delivered at the Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification, MINDIVER, Stakeholders’ Workshop on Roadmap for the Development of Nigeria’s Industrial Minerals, held in Abuja.
According to the Minister the importation was as a result of a gap of 626,921 tonnes per annum that exist in the local production of industrial minerals required by the local industries.
He further stated that the country has in abundance of world class deposits of industrial minerals, which explored and exploited would fill the existing gap and safe billions of naira and foreign exchange.
Some of these industrial minerals include marble/dolomite deposits of Jakura in Kogi State, Igara in Edo State, Ifelodun in Kwara State, Ugya in Nasarawa State; Barite in Guma in Benue and Yala in Cross River State, Mica resources located in several pegmatite sites such as Biasse, Pandogari, Birnin -Gwari, Sakaba, Dimension Stones (Granite and marbles) resources of Cross River, Bauchi, Jigawa and Kaduna States, Kaolin Deposits of Bauchi, Kebbi and Benue States and Talc deposits of Kagara in Niger and Isanlu in Kogi State, amongst others.
The presentation of Industrial Minerals Roadmap of Nigeria was done by an international consultant, VitorCorreia, and national consultant, Umar Hassan. The implementation agenda include Provision of Skills with total investment of $14.5 million; Law enforcement and governance with total investment of $13 million; Social acceptance of mining with total investment of $4.5 million; Infrastructure investment of $50.5 million. Access to funds with total investment of $36 million, and Resource Efficiency and Best Practices with total investment of $5 million.
He said: “The developed roadmap presented today seeks to facilitate competitive local production of industrial minerals commodity of required specifications by providing strategies for skilled labour development, improved access to finance, resolution of security issues, improvement in infrastructure, especially railway, and the use of low energy cost that would facilitate the production of competitive industrial mineral products; with the aim of attracting local users to look inwards for their sources of industrial minerals inputs.
“That a gap of 626,921 tonnes per annum do exist in the local production of industrial minerals required by the local industries which is currently filled by annual importation costing about $44.5 million (N16 billion).”
Meanwhile, during the panel discussion after the presentation of the Roadmap on the development of industrial minerals in Nigeria, operators welcomed the initiative of the Federal Government, but called for adequate implementation of the roadmap for harnessing the potential in the sector including banning the importation of barite, gypsum and others locally mined and produced.
One of the discussants, the National President of Miners Association of Nigeria, (MAN), SaniShehu, said the launch has brought hope to miners across the country despite challenges in the sector. He however, described importation of industrial minerals as “big contradiction.”
“We have large deposits of industrial minerals in the country, and based on the presentation made that we still import but we still import a lot of industrial minerals. I think this is by whatever judgment a big contradiction.
“After the roadmap was launched we started seeing slow but steady progress. Now that the launch of roadmap on industrial minerals is made, we hope that the launching will be accompanied by critical actionable points highlighted. I am happy that most of the challenges identified include the issues of funding, infrastructure and beneficiation to the demand of the end user.
“All these things are challenges to be surmounted. The issue of infrastructure is bit above the capacity of the ministry. For example, all roads that lead to mining sites to be fixed by the ministry and that is not realistic. I wish representatives of state governments are here. The Edo State Governor is now working with the miners in that state to grade the roads that lead to their mines which are usually industrial minerals. In turn, the Miners Association in Edo State would now take a token from any truck that enters the site, and that token; part of it is being paid to the Edo State government.
“So there is need for states’ intervention on infrastructure that leads to mining sites, especially for industrial minerals because once we get it right their activities would increase including employment of workers and will translate into revenue generation for the government”, Shehu said.