Professor Hussaini Doko Ibrahim, director-general of the Raw Material Research Development Council (RMRDC) believes that apart from its major usage for cement production, limestone, if applied in appropriate ration for composite fertilizer, could slow the rate of soil infertility and possibly reverse the current trend. He spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday.
Nigeria has always been classified as one of the countries with abundant mineral resources, yet many of them are not fully exploited, what’s your take? It is true that Nigeria is blessed with abundant mineral resources, which have formed the backbone of the country’s economic and industrial development. Prior to independence, the country’s mineral resources contributed immensely to export earnings. However, for over three decades now, the country has depended mostly on oil for her foreign exchange. Nevertheless, the volatile nature of the oil market has made it imperative for us to diversify the mono-product economy through exploitation and processing of other resources, mostly solid mineral resources.
Limestone is one of the under-taped resources in the country despite its industrial uses, how is the country currently making use of it? The major industrial use of limestone in Nigeria is cement production. It is widespread in the country’s sedimentary basins, which provide the raw materials for cement factories in Calabar, Cross River State; Sokoto, Sokoto State; Nkalagu, Enugu State; Okpella, Edo State; Ashaka, Gombe State; Gboko, Benue State; Ewekoro and Shagamu, Ogun State and Obajana in Kogi State. It is also found at Ikot Ana, Odukpani, Obubra, Ugep, Ago and Ibami in Cross River State; Ogbologuta, Igumale, Adiga, Tokura and Akahana-Jangerigeri in Benue State; Nkanu, Odomoke and Ngbo in Enugu State; Akoko-Edo, Owan and Etsako in Edo State; Umu-Obon and Okigwe in Imo State; Afikpo, Ntezi and Ikwo in Ebonyi State; Ohafia and Arochukwu in Abia State; Pindiga in Gombe State and Kanawa, and DebaHabe in Bauchi State. The shallow water sediments of the Albian around Mfamosing contain the largest and the purest deposit in Nigeria. It is about 50 metres thick, at the quarry site.
The Mfamosing limestone has over 96 per cent calcite (CaCO3). Reserves in this area exceed 30 million tonnes. The Calabar Cement Company (CALCEMCO) was using the limestone for cement alone. It is also used by the Delta Steel plant at Aladja as a fluxing agent and for making hydrated lime. The Dangote Cement Company has just proposed a 6million tonnes of cement plant in Calabar per annum to work on the deposit. It is important for us to highlight the fact that most of the limestone deposits in Nigeria are actively being mined for Portland cement production. For instance, the over 174million tonnes of limestone in the Nkalagu area of Ebonyi State is being used by the Nigerian Cement Company (NIGERCEM) to produce cement. Also, about 35million tonnes of limestone found in Ewekoro is being quarried by the West African Portland Cement Company. Another 10 million tonnes of limestone in Shagamu is being worked on by Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc for cement production. The limestone deposit at Ibeshe in Ogun State covers a large area and it is very rich in CaCO3. The Dangote Cement Company has established a cement factory with 6million tonnes per annum capacity at Ibeshe. In the Benue trough are the Asu River Group sediments of the Albian age around Yandev. Within these sediments are three limestone beds with thickness, totaling about 40 metres. Total reserves in this area exceed 70 million tonnes. The Benue Cement Company, now Dangote Cement Company Plc is developing this deposit for cement production, with a capacity of 4million tonnes per annum. Also, the limestone deposit at Ashaka in Gombe State, which covers a large area, is mainly used by Ashaka Cement Company for cement production and by the phosphate fertilizer company based in Kaduna, while the Maastrichtian-Kalambaina formation in Sokoto contains thick limestone beds. These limestone beds extend from Dange and Shuni belt, down to Wamakko and Kalambaina. And these are quarried by the Northern Nigerian Cement Company solely for cement production. The reserves in the area exceed 101.6 million tonnes.
What are the major contributions of the RMRDC to limestone development and utilisation in Nigeria? The Council’s contribution to the development and utilisation of limestone in Nigeria is multifarious and multidisciplinary. Let me start by saying that our efforts have led to the documentation and publication of limestone deposits in Nigeria. Our efforts have also led to the characterisation and classification of the limestone deposits. Also, we have, and are still creating awareness on industrial utilisation of limestone in Nigeria. The Council has been in the vanguard of promoting investment in mini cement production, and a number of state governments have bought into the initiative. Other major areas the RMRDC has contributed to the sustainable development of limestone in recent times are in the development, fabrication and installation of granulated limestone processing plant in Calabar, Cross River State; the development, fabrication and installation of hydrated lime production plant in Kwakuti, Niger State, in collaboration with Bembu Mining and Engineering Services Ltd, and the development, fabrication and installation of hydrated lime production plant in NARICT, Zaria. These became necessary in view of the vast industrial applications of the two secondary raw materials. In addition, as part of its contribution to the national effort to increase agricultural output, the Council considers that the use of composite fertiliser containing appropriate ratios of lime or limestone could slow the rate of soil infertility and possibly reverse the current trend with time.
The establishment of a plant to manufacture granulated limestone for use by fertiliser blending companies is thus expected to have a multiplier effect on the nation’s agriculture. In line with the diversification agenda of the Federal Government, how do you think this country can earn foreign exchange from limestone? As we are all aware, Nigeria used to be a major importer of cement. Today, cement production has increased considerably, making Nigeria the largest producer of cement in Africa. The industry is leading the way in industrial expansion and creating the much needed employment. Also, Nigeria, through Dangote Cement, is assisting with the industrialisation of fellow African countries through the establishment of cement factories. Most countries in West Africa depend on cement produced in Nigeria. Our duty is to capitalise on these gains and expand the value chain by developing local capacities for granulate limestone and quicklime. The gains will be dual in nature. This means conservation and generation of foreign exchange.
SOURCE: DAILY TRUST