Mr Patrick Odiegwu, National Publicity Secretary Association of Miners and Processors of Barite (AMAPOB), says Nigeria has arguably the best grade of barite deposit in the world.
Odiegwu stated this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja on Monday while speaking on the Nigeria’s solid mineral sector as it celebrates its 59th Independence Anniversary.
He said that the country had enough deposit to meet the local demand and export, if given opportunity to access market and development finance.
Odiegwu, who maintained that even the International Oil and Gas Companies (IOCs) were aware of this fact, expressed concern that supply side was currently experiencing serious issues.
“Imagine a situation where an intending buyer indicates price and quality of the mineral product he is buying from a miner, without taking into consideration cost of mining.
“This is not sustainable; government ought to do something and should intervene. The barite in Polyguard’s site in Benue, is arguably the best grade found anywhere in the world, I stand to be corrected.
“However, because mining is an economic activity that thrives on mechanisation for scale, scaling up is a must to remain competitive.
“The IOCs know we have the best grade of barite, but for whatever reason, they keep making all manners of somersault to continue to import it into the country to the detriment of barite miners,” he said.
He stressed that government had to step in to address the situation which he said was a monumental rape.
Odiegwu added that government should not only stop the situation, but should ensure that barite was fully and comprehensively unbounded from other chemicals in drilling mud.
The miner said that there was the need to know which mine produces barite used in any contracted drilling operation in the country, stressing that international price should also apply.
“In fact, our price supposed to be higher than international prices because we are not yet fully developed and we need a lot of money to be able to build capacity to remain competitive.
“Every country under this planet protects its local value chain development and area of comparative advantage,” he noted.
He expressed concern that the 2010 Local Content Act which stipulated that 60 per cent of barite must be sourced locally in the country was being adhered to in the breach.
According to him, IOCs via contractual arrangement with oil servicing companies had continued to bring in barite into the country through the free trade zones.
“We cannot survive like this, our members are dying in droves, poverty is hitting us when we are suppose to be creating wealth for the nation, instead, we are being submerged in poverty, this is not right.
“We are not asking for free lunch, but for a level playing field by government since we do not have the capacity to withstand the onslaught from the IOCs and marginal fields’ operators,” he said.
He urged the Nigeria Content and Monitoring Board to be strict on oil and gas operators that failed to adhere to laid down rules.
He further added that the Chevron order in 2014 to AMAPOB member companies should be used as a model to de-risk the sector.
Odiegwu said another viable option could be what NEXIM Bank was developing: a trade based funding matrix that would unlock the Barite market.
He added that all players comprising, miners, government agencies, and oil-field operators could participatorily de-risk the Barite market.
This, he said, would also eliminate the logistic issues by SEALINK provisioning of inland waterway transportation and remove exploitable loopholes, adding that it was sustainable.
Odiegwu added that Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) had already ensured that Nigerian Barite met standard which all parties must adopt and independent assayers employed for determination of quality, quantity and grain size.
He decried the politics IOCs and marginal fields operators were playing with Nigeria`s Barite miners, adding that the system should know the volume of barite consumed by operators.
He stressed that no nation should allow its strong international product to be condemned to the realm of low grade by IOCs when the reverse was the case.
He noted that the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency had the competency and professionals to monitor deliverables and benchmark same to certain specifics and timelines for action.
This, he said, was already receiving attention through Nationwide Integrated Minerals Exploration Programme (NIMEP) to the credit of the agency, adding that the intervention was laudable but speed and proactive implementation was essential.
“National mineral exploration is a security issue, and smart governments will never allow foreigners to come in for such programme, especially at exploration stage because they can finish exploration and give wrong information.
“Only for them to turn around and collect license, explore and exploit high valued mineral whilst paying low tariff to government, telling you they are mining something that did not worth much.
“The truth is that in most cases, they conceal higher valuable elements, thus smiling to the banks in Shanghai, Delhi, Geneva, London, the list is inexhaustible,” Odiegwu said.