From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Minister of Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has expressed excitement over the readiness of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create a special window for funding of world class processing of barite.
He spoke during the launching of barite in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday.
The Minister said the CBN funding window would help Nigeria meet global standards and stop further importation.
He said 12 processing companies had received approval to participate in the industry, adding that move might save $300 million every year in foreign exchange.
According to him, the companies are to produce at American Petroleum Institute (API) standards.
Adegbite disclosed that the Ministry was pursuing a presidential directive as far back as 2016, stating that collaboration has brought the drive to the point of success of using Nigeria’s minerals to capture international market share.
The Minister hinted that the sector has already attracted $150 million loans in 2017.
He said the drive also worked to reduce importation and create jobs in areas such as gypsum, kaolin and other minerals.
Speaking further, the Minister mentioned the Benue trough as the area rich in Barite while experts said the nation has mapped out 146 barite spots that can supply for the next 100 years.
He said Nigerian barite hub is being created for easy coordination with what he called Open Market System.
The minister was supported in this aspect by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Wabote, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, who was represented by his Special Assistant (SA), Anthony Ifechukwu at the launch of world class barite product.
Another pronouncement on the proposed ban came from the Executive Secretary (ES) of the NCDMB who said a study was commissioned by the Board on Nigeria’s readiness to produce it locally and stop importation.
Wabote stated that the Board commissioned a study which eventually picked out 12 processors that can give Nigeria self-sufficiency in the product and help stop any further importation.
The SA to the CBN boss (Ifechukwu), while offering the support of the apex bank to the barite drive, said the CBN would no longer allocate foreign exchange as soon as the ban is placed.
He said, instead, the ministers in charge of the mineral would meet with the CBN governor next week to agree on modalities for a finance package to boots local processing to meet international standards.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), Garba, described Barite as an industrial mineral that has both upstream and downstream sectors, saying more studies were still ongoing.
He said; “Soon, importation of Barite into Nigeria will stop because the processes that lead to such a policy are in progress”.
Barite is indicated as a high gravity mineral used as sludge in the oil and gas industry to stop explosion of gas during drilling. It is mostly used by the oil and gas industry in Nigeria and this made the Ministry of Steel Development to select Port Harcourt for the launch of the product to bring the awareness closer to the users.