BY CAROLINE AMOSUN
In an effort to ban the importation of barite and promote its local production, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, has commissioned a barite processing plant in Cross River State.
Speaking at the inauguration of the barite processing plant, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, noted that its location in Ugaga, Cross River State was significant due to the rich deposits of barite there.
He said, “I am delighted to address you on this August event, which marks the commissioning of the Barite Processing Plant in Ugaga, Cross River State, South-South, Nigeria.
“The choice of Ugaga, as a location for the barite processing plant is predicated on its possession of rich deposits of barite among the South-South State and its closeness to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where the processed barites are required for oil exploration in line with local content and value addition policy in Nigeria.”
According to him, 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.
In her remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Oluwatoyin Akinlade, noted that the facility would be processing barite to the international standard, making it suitable for export to other parts of the world to generate foreign exchange.
In October 2021, the Federal Government launched the made-in-Nigeria barite, saying it would save the country the foreign exchange spent on the importation of the product.
Barite is used as a weighting material in oil and gas drilling, primarily to prevent the explosive release of gas and oil during drilling.
During the launch in 2021, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, Simbi Wabote announced that imported barites would no longer be allowed for use by the Nigerian oil and gas industry from 2022.
Although the ban has yet to be implemented, the commissioning of the barite processing plant was an effort towards promoting the made-in-Nigeria barite.
Investors might begin jostling for Nigeria’s over 20 million metric tons of barite reserves.
It was reported that the Federal Government was working with TotalEnergies to invest in mining the country’s barites reserves.
It was also reported that professional bodies such as the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, and universities offering petroleum engineering in states where Nigeria has barite reserves were also involved in the project.