By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government is seeking ways to ease the pressure on the Naira caused by the foreign exchange (FX) crisis with the local production of barite, which would reduce the importation of the product.
Barite is a weighting material in drilling muds used in oil and gas drilling, primarily to prevent the explosive release of gas and oil during drilling. It is also used in the plastic, rubber, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, papermaking and paint industries.
Speaking at the launching in Port Harcourt on Thursday, the Minister of Mines and Steel, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, said barite was among the seven strategic minerals designated for top-priority development by the ministry, adding that the initiative is poised to save the country millions of dollars spent importing barite.
Mr Adegbite said the ministry would commission an open marketplace portal that will connect all stakeholders along the Barite value chain to a hub that allows for easy coordination, stocking, effective costing and seamless sale of Barite.
The Minister said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has been unwavering in the support to the development of the solid minerals sector.
“We have facilitated the development of an industrial mineral roadmap to optimize Nigeria’s industrial minerals to meet the standards of the manufacturing, industrial and construction industry so as to reduce import dependency.
“The desire to facilitate local production of these minerals was geared towards conserving foreign exchange and creating jobs and wealth for the citizenry. Some of these minerals include calcium carbonate, kaolin, barite, gypsum, mica etc.
“With improved funding, spurred by the visionary leadership of Mr President, we have recorded remarkable results and progress with the roadmap objectives, which is evident in the launch of the Nigerian barite today.
“A major component of this initiative is the promotion of local content in the production, quality assurance and sale of Barite. I am aware that the bags of barite we are presenting today meets the American Petroleum Institute standard, which is the global benchmark accepted by the oil industry.”
Also speaking, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, commended the Ministry for putting the country among barite producing nations.
Mr Emefiele, represented by his Special Adviser, Mr Anthony Ifechukwu, affirmed that the era of sourcing for foreign exchange for importation of barite was over while pledging the support of CBN to the development of the solid mineral sector.
“I am particularly excited by the fact that the product we are launching today is called the “Nigerian Barite”, a brand I am optimistic will soon develop to be a dominant force in the barite space in Africa and even beyond.
“The benefits of this exercise cannot be overemphasized as Nigeria will now be a barite-producing country thereby bolstering our capacity to meet the needs of oil and gas firms in the supply chain.
“This activity will not only create jobs but will alleviate poverty, create new specialized skills and ultimately grow our economy’s gross domestic product (GDP). The multiplier effect on incomes and indirect jobs also makes this programme a game-changer for the economy especially as we enter the post-COVID-19 era.
“My presence here today is an affirmation of our support for the development of the solid strategic mineral sector.
“This historic launch is not only important to us at the CBN but quite timely because we have on our part been engagıng with stakeholders in the mining industry,” he said.