Miners of barite in Nigeria have accused international oil companies of economic sabotage of importing the mineral into the country.

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They alleged that the IOCs had continued to import the mineral as a component of ‘drilling mud’, a combination of chemicals used in drilling oil wells, despite the abundant deposits of barite in Nigeria and the Federal Government’s local content policy.

The miners cited a law stipulating that 60 per cent of barite utilised by the IOCs operating in the country should be sourced locally was not being obeyed.

The miners asked the Federal Government to isolate barite from contracts given out by the IOCs for importation of drilling mud, so as to create opportunity for local supply of the commodity.

The Association of Miners and Processors of Barite, the umbrella body of Nigerian barite miners, said continued importation of barite by the IOCs was threatening economic development in the country.

The association also rejected the claims by the IOCs that locally produced barite was of poor quality.

The Chairman of the association, Prince Steve Alao, remarked that the IOCs were bent on thwarting the Federal Government’s local content policy.

“We have gone beyond the issue of quality of Nigerian-made barite; our barite is of good quality.

“Unfortunately, this issue has always been what these economic saboteurs use as an excuse for importing barite from their home countries.

“If the barite produced in Nigeria is utilised effectively, it will save a lot of cost in oil production. Barite importation is economic sabotage, as it leads to capital flight. Besides, they import from their parent countries.

“Why have the IOCs and their mud companies not tried to partner local barite producers or engaged in backward integration? It is because they are importing barite from their home countries; they don’t want Nigeria to reap the benefits of a mineral (barite) which is in abundant supply in the country,” he said.

He disclosed that the IOCs spent about N148,000 to import a metric tonne of barite, while barite of the same quantity and quality is available locally for about N45,000.

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Meanwhile, Alao said the miners would require financial assistance from the Federal Government to return to full operations after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mine sites in the country have been closed since March after the Miners Association of Nigeria directed the suspension of mining activities due to the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The miners association noted that social distancing was not possible at the mine sites.

Alao noted that, due to the development, routine daily maintenance of the mines was not being done.

“All the mines have been abandoned and the cost of reopening the mines will be too much for most miners,” he said.