…says Nigeria sets to stop barite importation

By Gabriel Ewepu

THE Federal Government, Tuesday, disclosed auctioning of bitumen blocs across the country to investors in third quarter of 2021.

This was made known by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite, while receiving the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, John Donnelly, at the headquarters of the Ministry in Abuja.

According to Adegbite, after adequate data have been gathered from some bitumen sites government will go for auctioning of the mineral in the third quarter of the year, which will give opportunities to investors to locally develop the bitumen industry.

He said: “A lot of people are interested in bitumen which is coming from both local and foreign investors.

“However, we are still acquiring data in some of the fields and once the data is in we will go for auctioning in the third quarter,”

He also made it known that PWC is collaborating with the Ministry to develop a bitumen roadmap.

In similar development, the Minister also said there are efforts being made by the Ministry to raise the quality of barite produced in the country to global standard known as American Petroleum Institute, API, standard.

According to him (Adegbite) a consultant is working assiduously on raising the local production standard of barite to the API standard, which will attract players in the oil and gas sector to patronise locally produced barite instead of spending huge foreign exchange on importing the commodity.

“We are also working on the local production of barite. Barite is a critical weighting material in Drilling fluids used in oil industry. We have a lot of barite but the issue is that it is not produced to API standards.

“However, we are putting a system in place which would be ready to launch in about July. We have got the millers who can produce barite to API standard. Hence we will be able to compete with foreign ones and it would save Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange in import substitution”, he stated.

While harping on the Ajaokuta Steel Company, he maintained that the plant after completion will employ 10, 000 Nigerians.

“One of the mandates that the president gave me was to use the sector to diversify the economy and create employment. And Ajaokuta is one place that would readily employ like 10,000 Nigerians if it is working fully. About 14 minerals are going into the production of steel through the blast furnace. We have got all these minerals in Nigeria. Production of these other minerals which we need to produce steel will also create jobs”, he said.

However, the Minister explained why the 60-man technical audit team from Russia are yet to arrive the country have be delayed, which he said was due to the COVIID-19 pandemic following travel restrictions and cumbersome protocols.

“We turned to the Russians the original builder to come and resuscitate the plant. The first step towards the resuscitation was to have a technical audit. We were expecting a 60-man team from Russia which are to be joined by a 100-man team from Nigeria.

“The resuscitation of Ajaokuta was such a loft goal and was in full speed. But then the pandemic struck. This has prevented the Russians who are supposed to conduct the technical audit from coming to Nigeria.

“I hope very soon that they can come and that we kick start the plan to resuscitate the plant again. It will help our industrialisation because production of liquid steel will take us to the next level in industrialisation as we will be able to do produce parts for vehicles, engine blocks and so”, he added.

The Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, John Donnelly, said Australia is willing to work with Nigeria to develop the mining sector.

“Mining is such a long term venture. It takes about 15 to 20 years for a particular deposit to be identified, worked out and scoped out, before you arrange the finances and start to develop and go into production. So we are a very patient people in the mining sector”, Donnelly said.

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