The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has said that Nigeria will now be saving $300 million every year, which hitherto was used for the importation of processed barite.
The minister spoke in Ugaga community of Yala LGA, Cross River State, where the Federal Government has established a 10-ton-per-hour barite processing plant.
He said the barite ore processing plant will boost local and national economies as more wealth will be created amongst artisanal miners, noting that the government spent about one billion naira to establish the facility.
Barite, used mostly in the oil industry to boost oil production, is crushed and screened to a uniform size and used as a filler or extender, an addition to industrial products, or a weighting agent in petroleum well-drilling mud specifications.
Adegbite affirmed that Nigeria was exporting raw barite ore and importing processed barite, spending a staggering sum of hard currency in the process.
“This is why the Federal Government launched the project of establishing the barite processing plant in November 2021 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
“Nigeria has 4.8 gravity standard barite in vast quantities in Cross River State, which is far higher than the 4.2 found elsewhere.
“Federal Government decided to establish the processing plant in the state to help both artisanal and commercial miners process it for export and for the oil industry,” he said.
He explained that the choice of Ugaga, as the location for the barite processing plant is predicated on its possession of rich deposits of barite in the South-South state and its closeness to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where processed barites are required for oil exploration in line with local content and value addition policies in Nigeria.
The minister said that with the location of the barite processing plant in Ugaga, artisanal and small-scale barite miners within the zone can easily have access to the plant for their barite processing before further transportation and sales.
According to him, the plant is part of the Buhari administration’s policy to diversify the national economic base, which is anchored on the two key sectors of mining and agriculture.
He added that the concept of the barite processing plant was a carefully crafted policy to spur job creation and capacity development for barite miners in Cross River State and its environs.
The plant, he said, will create over 20,000 jobs in the barite mining value chain in the South-South zone cluster.
The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr. Oluwatoyin Akinlade, said the outcome of the Barite Ore Processing Plant in Ugaga was part of the measures taken by the Buhari regime to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that the facility will process barite to international API standards for export to other parts of the world in order to generate foreign exchange.