Nigeria is set to commence large-scale exploitation of bitumen following the declaration on Sunday of the preparedness of indigenous firm, South West Bitumen Limited to commence the commodity’s mining in Lamidifa community in Irele Local Government Area of Ondo State.
It obtained a 25-Year Renewable Operational Mining Licence from the Nigerian government three years ago to exploit the commodity in southern Ondo State, said to have the largest bitumen deposit in West Africa.
Nigeria, which has the world’s second biggest bitumen reserves covering roughly 120 kilometres according to the Ministry of Mines and Steel, spends over N300 billion importing the product to fix its broad nexus of roads which are largely dilapidated.
“Nigeria’s bitumen deposit is estimated at 37 billion barrels. Bitumen is an essential component in the building (manufacture of asbestos and waterproofing materials) and construction (production of asphalt for road building sector).
“Our review revealed that bitumen has attracted very little attention over the years.
“This has led to loss of scarce foreign exchange through importation, under-development of the mineral which is strategic to our road infrastructure and opportunity for employment is lost to other countries,” the transparency initiative noted,” industry watchdog, Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative said in a commentary in March.
Adeiya Oluwatominiyi, a representative of South West Bitumen, told journalists on Sunday the firm had moved earth-moving machinery including excavators, bulldozers and wheel loaders to site.
According to him, the bitumen in Ondo State, unlike petroleum, is in tar sand, which could be exploited from the topsoil and taken to the yard for processing.
He stated that the firm had the ambition of beginning with modular processing for its pilot operations through the use of German-made technology.
“This is a pilot case. It is a modular exploitation. What we have in Nigeria is tar sand bitumen. Not like in petroleum when you are tapping from it to get bitumen. We are not getting it from the cracking of anything. What we need to do is heat it with required technology.”
Wilfred Akinyeke, the company mining engineer, said it aimed to produce 20 tons of bitumen monthly, expected to hit 50,000 tonnes monthly when it attained fully capacity operation.
Bitumen deposits also exist in Edo, Ogun and Lagos States.
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