The federal government has packaged the mineral, known as barite, found in Nigeria to meet international standards to attract revenue for the nation.
Minister of mines and steel development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, made the announcement in Abuja on Sunday.
Barite is a mineral used mainly in the petroleum industry in the formulation of drilling mud. it is found largely in Cross River in Nigeria’s resource-rich Niger Delta belt.
The mineral is also found in the U.S., China, India, and Morocco.
Adegbite said that on his assumption of office in 2019, he raised a team that worked on identifying the issues associated with the barite variety found in Nigeria.
He said that all complaints raised by oil and drilling companies that use barite had been taken care of and that the mineral would be formally displayed and marketed by the middle of this year.
“One of the complaints is on the quality of barite because the quality of barite is measured in terms of specific gravity.
“The American Petroleum Institute standard (API) is minimum of 4.1 but luckily in Nigeria, we have Barite even occurring at 4.5, 4.3, 4.8, especially the deposits found in Cross River State.
“So, we have the quality. We can blend. We also have some that are 4.0. If you blend 4.0 with 4.3, of course you get what goes beyond the API standard. We have crossed the standard in terms of quality.
“The second complaints is about the milling. Barite has to be milled into fine powder. I think 0.03 macron or something.
“They have that measurement so that when they are using it in the drilling it does not spoil the drilling rig.”
Adegbite said the federal government had been making use of three drilling mills, located in Nasarawa State, Port Harcourt and Calabar.
He noted that the issue of bagging of the product was also being taken care, saying that a Nigerian entrepreneur had developed a bag found to be strong enough to be used to carry barite without the contents of the bag spilling.
“There was a time barite importation was bad and the companies were forced to use Nigerian barite but of course, they were complaining that Nigerian barite didn’t meet standards in terms of gravity.
“Whenever they lifted the bag on site to pour it into the well, the bag will split as they are lifting it from the ground and the barite will waste.
“Now there’s this bag, the standard of which has been approved by everybody and we proudly mark: “Made in Nigeria on it.”
The minister said that having taken care of all the inherent complaints and issues, Nigerian barite would be put officially on the market and that the federal government would come up with a policy to ban its importation.
According to him, once the importation of the mineral is banned and the Nigerian market is satisfied, the mineral would be exported to other parts of Africa, especially the West African sub-region.
“We buy barite of about 250 to 300 million dollars every year essentially from Morocco and maybe some from South Africa.
“So, let us satisfy the local market first. if you satisfy the local market, we can start exploiting to the west coast.
“Ghana has discovered oil. A few other West African nations are discovering oil now. They will need barite. South Africa too just discovered oil off their shores. We can sell barite to them as well.
“Essentially, we want to satisfy the local market first, if we are able to do that it means we are saving Nigeria about 300 million dollars annually of money that goes out.
“That’s import substitution. So that is the first target. If we are able to exceed local demand then we will go to supply the foreign market.”