By Gabriel Ewepu
THE Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Architect Olamilekan Adegbite, has lamented the untapped 42.74 billion metric tonnes of bitumen reserve in five States of Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa.
Adegbite who made the disclosure said this could not continue as government is determined to deploy all it takes to explore and exploit the redundant solid mineral. Nigeria’s bitumen deposit currently ranks second largest in the world spanning approximately 120 kilometres with about 42.74 billion metric tonnes, but the country imported over 5 million metric tonnes of the commodity as at April 2019.
This discovery of commercial quantity of such huge deposit of nature’s gift to the country its exploitation, exploration and exportation remain a big challenge. The issue of technical expertise has been nothing to write home about, high cost of exploration and exploitation, continued dependence on oil as major foreign exchange earner have also bedevilled bitumen development in the country.
About 80 per cent of asphaltic materials used for road construction in the country were still being imported into the country while 120km of bitumen lies fallow and untapped.
Sadly, the bitumen industry has been at the lowest ebb due to lack of processing plants, interest of investors, and poor political will with no drive to actualise the aspirations to unlock the potentials of this money-spinning sector that has remained dormant and inactive for many decades.
He said: “Bitumen is an important component mineral resource needed for road construction that is in abundance, which the country can explore and exploit for economic development.
“Nigeria has an estimated reserve of about 42.74 billion metric tonnes of bitumen along the States of Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa, which remained majorly untapped for years.”
Meanwhile, the Minister has inaugurated a 9-man committee chaired by the Director General, Mining Cadastre Office, Mr Simon Nkom, whose members include the staff from relevant departments of the Ministry and Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE.
He said: “This 9-man Committee on Development of Bitumen Resources is chaired by the Director General of Mining Cadastre Office, Simon Nkom, and it has members drawn from the Ministry and the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE, which is expected to work out modalities on the exploitation and exploration of bitumen resources in the country as part of this administration’s efforts to diversify the economy.
“The committee has the following terms of reference: Collate and study previous reports on development of Bitumen in Nigeria; identify current title holders and the level of exploration or exploitation; determine available bitumen reserves and recommend criteria for allocation.