This comes as the Central Bank recently banned the importation of maize for the same reason as Nigeria aims to save foreign exchange in an era of falling oil revenue and OPEC production cuts.
The Minister announced this in a forum with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), where he revealed that Nigeria imports $300 million worth of barite annually from Morocco.
The mineral made up of barium sulphate, is mainly used in the oil and gas industry for as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in the upstream sector.
Barite (or Barytes) is the naturally occurring mineral form of barium sulphate. Its main properties are its high specific gravity (4.5), very low solubility; it is non-toxic, and also chemically and physically unreactive. It is extracted by both surface and underground mining, followed by simple physical processing methods to produce correctly sized product and to remove extraneous materials.
Some 70% worldwide is used as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration. Other uses are in added-value applications which include the car, electronics, TV screen, rubber, and glass ceramics and paint industry, radiation shielding and medical applications (barium meals).
Why it matters: The minister said the country could not continue spending millions of dollars every year on barite. He said the country imports 300 million dollars worth of barite from Morocco annually, adding that it was a mineral which was quite available in Nigeria.
“We have barite all over the country (in Nasarawa, Cross River States); so, why can’t we produce our barite. There are standards required by the industry and we have it.
“The first thing is that it is measured by specific gravity; do we have the specific gravity that is required? We do, but the processing is what is missing,” he said.
He added that when he resumed office as Minister, he worked with consultants on the sourcing of barite locally to oil drilling sites. Adding that when mined, its discovered as big stones that need crushing to fine particles, therefore standards are needed in the milling of the mineral before it is bagged to sites.
He also added that the bagging procedure has to be done right, and if Nigeria achieves that, we will end the foreign importation, and if Nigeria gets the value chain right, it will enable Nigeria save on foreign exchange and also create local employment.
He added that Nigeria has begun plans to locally refine minerals found here and diversify the country’s economy, citing the gold bars launched by President Buhari during the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) on July 16. Adding that the government is working with a Canadian company to begin the export of Gold in Nigeria’s proven one million ounces of gold by next year.
He said data would have to be collected on the minerals Nigeria has in large quantities through an Aero Magnetic Survey, which is done through a plane flying low to observe mineral data. And that proven surveys have discovered large quantities of gold in Zamfara, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, Osun, Kwara, and the FCT.
The minister says Nigeria’s proven gold reserves could rise to over 200 million ounces. He said the plans are to begin processing of local minerals next year.