Minister to AMAPOB: ‘We will defend your cause if . . .’

Arc Olamilekan Adegbite

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite has pledged the commitment of his administration to the development of local content in the country, saying that the ministry will advocate for an executive order to ban importation of barite into the country provided that local producers of the commodity are able to match import quality and quantity.

The minister, who gave the assurance during a visit of the Association of Miners and Processors of Barites (AMAPOB) to the ministry in Abuja, tasked local miners of barite to produce top-quality barite needed by oil producing companies in the country.

‘If local can producers can guarantee the production of high grade barite needed by oil producing companies in country, the ministry will defend their cause for ban on importation of barite to the country,’ he said, adding that the Federal Government will issue an executive order banning importation of barite, a development that will compel oil companies in Nigeria to patronise only local producers of barite.

He noted that if this is done, local producers will be able to control pricing of their products. The minister emphasized the need for local producers to meet the minimum quality requirements of barite used by oil producing companies.

While saying that the development of local content will pave way for the realization of the economic diversification goal of the administration, he expressed confidence in the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to develop local content.

The minister said: ‘The President himself is in charge of the ministry of petroleum resources and we can go to the highest level for AMAPOB, provided that we are sure that local producers will match import quality and quantity.’

Addressing the executives of AMAPOB, the minister said: ‘Barite is a commodity that is traded internationally, so we need to get the internationally accepted price for barite and ensure that you produce top quality barite that can be sold for the internationally accepted price, and we will fight your cause.’

He expressed the commitment of government to the pursuit of verifiable data of solid minerals in the country saying that ‘through empirical proof, government is committed to ascertaining the quantity and quality of barite deposits in the country.’

‘We do not encourage guesses, so we encourage the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency to explore for solid minerals.’

‘The executive order will protect the local industry, we are conscious of the need to protect what is our own and protect the growth and development of local content, but you must also do your part,’ he said, adding that the possible issuance of such executive order will save Nigeria huge capital flight.

Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah said the administration is willing to work with various groups in the sector provided that they are organsied. Dr Ogar explained that the management of the ministry is mindful of the need to work with relevant stakeholders in the sector, adding that as policy makers, the administration is determined to create enabling environment needed by operators.

Earlier, the President, Association of Miners and Processors of Barites and Bentonite (AMAPOB), Prince Stephen Alao congratulated the Minister on their appointments, and appealed to the new team to rescue local producers from economic losses that continued to bedevil the barite mining business for over fifteen years.

Prince Alao said: ‘We have come to tell you the truth about the state of barite in Nigeria,’ adding that there are misconceptions about the development of the industry in the country.

According to him, ‘some members of AMAPOB have been in the business of barite and bentonite for over thirty years, and have engaged the oil producing companies who own the mud companies in the oil industry.’

While saying that mining is capital intensive, he expressed concern that there is no adequate funding for it, saying that if barite is unbundled, the problem of price will cease to be an issue.

‘The pricing for barite has not changed for the past fifteen years.’

‘We are the producers of barites, but unfortunately, we are unable to control the price, we need government to unbundle barites in order to enable us control the cost.’

While saying that barite and bentonite are solid minerals that have the potential to generate jobs for Nigerians, he noted that if developed, the minerals can also lead to infrastructural development.

While saying that ‘barite and bentonite calcium carbonate are the key raw materials found in Nigeria which are used in oil and gas drilling,’ he stressed the importance of barite saying that there is no substitute for barite in drilling operations. He however expressed concern that the quest to develop barite and bentonite has been enmeshed in various challenges.

While saying that ‘Nigeria has the largest known deposit of barite in Africa,’ Alao expressed concern that multinational ‘oil producing companies operating in Nigeria continue to shortchange local miners and processors of barite and bentonite by downplaying the price of barite in the drilling mud while increasing the price of the imported component.’

He therefore called on government to address the problems inhibiting the development of the barite and bentonite in the country.

According to him, ‘it is sad, and government needs to rise up to the challenge of solving the problem because the Nigerian government pays for this commodity.’

‘We want the Honorable Minister to unbundle barite from the mud contract,’ he added.

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