In spite of abundant local availability of gypsum and feldspar across the country, cement, ceramics and glass makers still resort to the import of these solid minerals, which serve as raw materials for them. While gypsum is used in cement manufacture, feldspar is used in both ceramics and glass making. Cumulatively, cement makers spend N3.32 billion ($20m) in gypsum import, according to experts.
“Despite the huge availability of resources, the industrial sector is yet to take full advantage of the economic potentials of gypsum value addition and creation of industrial sector linkages,’’ said Hussaini Doko Ibrahim, director-general, Raw Materials and Research Development Council (RMRDC), during a stakeholders’ forum held recently in Abuja.
Gypsum is an essential raw materials used in cement making. It may be found in large deposits in Gombe, Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Delta, Imo, Kogi, among other states. However, findings have shown that cement manufacturers look to Japan, Italy, Egypt, China, Mexico, among other countries, for gypsum supply.
Stakeholders say part of the reasons for non-development of this sector is lack of infrastructure, low interest of investors in this area as well as government’s inability to take the solid minerals sector seriously.
In an exclusive interview with Real Sector Watch, Joe Hudson, CEO, Lafarge WAPCO,
said ending gypsum import would require a clear-cut desire to develop this sector in the country.
On the other hand, the alkalis and alumina contents of feldspar are essential for the glass and ceramic industries. Apart from the use of feldspar as fluxes in the ceramic and glass industries, they are used as fillers and extenders in the paint, chemical, plastic, and rubber industries. Currently, the estimated demand for feldspar annually by industries in Nigeria is about 200,000 tons, while local supply is less 80,000.
In spite of this, 3.76 million tons of feldspar are found in Ijero-Ekiti, while various quantities are found in Abeokuta, Gbegbinlawo, Ogun State; Oshogbo, Ilesha, Osun State; Bassa, Mangu, Plateau State; Osara, Okene, Kogi State, among other areas. Further research has shown that this raw material is mainly imported from Brazil, Colombia and France.
Experts say apart from lack of infrastructure with which to develop these solid minerals locally, skills gap is also an impeding factor. They call on the government to establish specialised institutions such as ceramics institute or partner with professionals to do so in order to bridge the gap.
“The skills gap is a big blow. Our local manufacturing businesses are struggling to process their own raw materials. This is because they mostly lack knowledge of the chemical and mineralogical compositions, physical and mechanical properties of these raw materials,’’ said Patrick Eguakhide Oaikhinan, professor of ceramics engineering and CEO, Epina Technologies Limited, who is organising a ceramics trade fair in Lagos next month, in an interview with Real Sector Watch.