The Federal Government is set to auction its Bitumen block in the third quarter of 2021. This was disclosed by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, via a statement issued by the Ministry and seen by Nairametrics on Thursday.
According to him, the ministry is working towards auctioning its bitumen block in the third quarter of the year. Responding to the enquiry of the Australian High Commissioner, John Donnelly, who visited the ministry on Tuesday, Adegbite revealed that the ministry was still gathering data on some of the bitumen field and was edging close to completion.
He noted that there were ample opportunities for investors in the local development of the bitumen sector. “A lot of people are interested in bitumen which is coming from both local and foreign investors. However, we are still acquiring data in some of the fields and once the data is in we will go for auctioning in the third quarter,” he said, adding that PWC, was advising the ministry on its bitumen development road map.
Adegbite also disclosed that the ministry was working on raising the quality of barite produced in the country to internationally acceptable standard which is known as American Petroleum Institute, API, standard. The Minister revealed that the ministry had contracted a consultant to help raise the standard in the local production of barite to ensure that the oil industry players begin to use barite produced in Nigeria as against importing from other countries.
He noted that there was ample opportunity for investors in the barite segment of the sector. Adegbite said, “We are also working on the local production of barite. Barite is a critical weighting material in Drilling fluids used in oil industry. We have a lot of barite but the issue is that it is not produced to API standards. However, we are putting a system in place which would be ready to launch in about July. We have got the millers who can produce barite to API standard. Hence we will be able to compete with foreign once and it would save Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange in import substitution.
“Ajaokuta steel plant was meant to be a game changer for the country when fully functional, revealing that about 13 other minerals were required in the production of steel. Ajaoukta steel would have brought development to the 13 other minerals which would have presented opportunities for investors to develop and would have created thousands of jobs for Nigerians.
“One of the mandate that the president gave me was to use the sector to diversify the economy and create employment. And Ajaokuta is one place that would readily employ like 10,000 Nigerians if it is working fully. About 14 minerals are going into the production of steel through the blast furnace. We have got all these minerals in Nigeria. Production of these other minerals which we need to produce steel will also create jobs.”
“We are bringing artisanal miners together and make them to come into a formal arrangement. We have a department in the ministry dedicated to artisanal miners that provides various incentives so that they could join the formal sector,” he said.
What Australia is saying
Donnelly expressed his country’s willingness to work with Nigeria to develop the mining sector. He said, “Mining is such a long term venture. It takes about 15 to 20 years for a particular deposit to be identified, worked out and scoped out, before you arrange the finances and start to develop and go into production; so we are a very patient people in the mining sector.”