With the advent of crude oil in Nigeria, solid minerals exploration and exploitation, as well as agriculture, have been relegated to the background. There is however no doubt that crude oil is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. The solid mineral, baryte, is of a strategic importance to the oil and gas industry. There is no doubt therefore that the Azara baryte exploitation holds a promise for the future of Nasarawa State. In view of this realistic position, the economic viability of solid minerals as a veritable alternative income for Nasarawa State, with a particular reference to baryte exploration in Azara can not be over emphasized. This research is an expository in that direction.


Nasarawa State, known by its sobriquet as “Home of Solid Minerals”, was created out of old Plateau State on October 1, 1996, by the General Sani Abacha military regime. It is made up of thirteen local government areas, with Lafia as the administrative seat of the state. It is located in the Middle Belt zone of Nigeria and lies between latitude 7 and 9 degrees north and longitude 7 and 10 degrees east. It shares common boundaries with Benue State to the south, Kogi State to the west, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, to the north-west. To the north is Kaduna State; while to the east is Taraba State. It has a population of 1,207,876. (1991 census). The people are hospitable and accommodating and have cultural and traditional affinity with each other. Christianity, Islam, and Traditional religion exist side by side among the people. The landmass is blessed with rich soil and the climate conditions which favours the abundant production of food crops. The state is also endowed with solid mineral deposits like gemstones, clay, baryte, granite, etc.

Some of these solid minerals are found in each of the thirteen local government areas of the state. Akwanga Local Government Area has cassiterite, clay, columbite, feldspars, gemstones, ziroon, mica, and granite. Awe Local Government Area is endowed with baryte, clay, limestone, sodium chloride, sphaterite and gulena. Doma Local Government Area is richly blessed with silica sand and clay. Karu Local Government Area has clay, Silica Sand, and granite. Keffi Local Government Area is blessed with clay, talc, gemstones, quartz, mica and granite. Lafia Local Government Area has clay and silica sand. Nasarawa Local Government Area has Cassiterite, columbite, clay, granite and tantalite. Nasarawa-Eggon Local Government Area is endowed with clay, feldspars, quartz and cassiterite. Obi Local Government Area is richly blessed with clay, coal, and barites. Toto Local Government Area has marble, iron ore, dolomite and clay. Wamba Local Government Area is blessed with quartz, clay, gemstone and granite. Keane Local Government Area has sodium chloride, clay, and limestone. These statistics is courtesy of Nasarawa State Government Big Exercise Book by Abdullahi Adamu (Sarkin Yakin Keffi).

Baryte is a combination of barium and sulphur. In its natural form, baryte is composed of barium sulphate. It is represented in the elemental description as BaSo4 that is because its principal constituent’s elements are baryon (BaO) 32.50% and sulphur (51.10%). It is a non metallic (heavy) mineral which belongs to the variety of caulk. It generally appears whitish or crystalline at outcrop scale. There is however traces of yellow and brown patches which are noticeable in hand specimen. As a dense mineral that it is, baryte is mixed with other minerals and chemicals in the preparation of building mud for drilling mud in the oil and gas industry.

There are basically two broad grades of barytes. They are the high specific gravity grade (High S.G.) and low specific gravity grades (Low S.G). These grades are commonly called high grades and low grades, respectively. The grades are measured in specific gravity unit of measurement and that can be done in laboratories. A grade falling below 4.O (S.G.) is classified as low grade baryte, whereas a grade that rises above, between, 4.2 (S.G.) and 4.5 (S.G.) is classified as high grade. The high grade is that which suits the oil and gas industry. Little wonder it is of higher demand and attracts higher cost. For example, at Azara site, the low grade sells for between two thousand naira (N 2000) and three thousand naira (N 3000) for a metric tonne, whereas the high grade sells for five thousand naira (N 5000) for a metric tonne. At Port Harcourt, the price is remarkably higher as a metric tonne of high grade baryte sells for about twenty thousand naira (N 20,000). This is apparently because there are both the processing factories and the refineries there. This product could also be locally processed and sold as finished product for delivering to refineries in Nigeria and abroad. It is particularly interesting to know that a metric tonne of finished product sells for one hundred and twenty thousand naira (N 120, 000) (Courtesy of Nigeria Baryte Mining and Processing Company Limited, NBMPC Ltd.)This is an area which, I considered, should interest the government and people of Nasarawa State.


Baryte was first detected in Azara in the early 1960s (Courtesy of Geological Survey of Nigeria, 1965). Exploratory search lasted for about a decade, between 1975 and 1985 by the Nigeria Mining Corporation. The Nigeria Baryte Mining and Processing Company (NBMPC) Ltd., incorporated in 1988, was charged with the exploration and exploitation of baryte in Azara and any part of Nigeria where baryte is found. The (NBMPC) Ltd. is wholly owned by the Nigeria Mining Corporation with its Headquarters in Jos. Initial reconnaissance revealed eighteen (18) veins at areas like Azara, Aloshi, Akiri, Wuse and Keana in Awe Local Government Area. Out of these eighteen (18) veins, detail exploration works were carried out in five (5) and these revealed a total reserve of seven hundred and thirty thousand (730,000) metric tonnes of baryte. Veins 1, 2, 5, 17 and 18 are the five (5) veins in use.


Baryte has a number of economic and industrial usages. It is a solid mineral which has many industrial usages. The more common industrial usages are listed below:

1. It is mixed with other minerals and chemicals and used as an inert volume and weight filler in drilling mud. Its high specific gravity (S.G.) which gives additional weight to the mud helps to prevent blow out during drilling. Major servicing and oil companies in the oil and gas industry in the Niger Delta import baryte for their industrial operations. The Azara baryte is thus invaluable, especially that it has the right mineralogical and geochemical properties needed for drilling operations. The high specific gravity (4.45), which is commonly referred to as the high grade, can be tailored to fit any mud type. It reduces the problem of “Baryte sag,” (loss of weighting property).

2. It is also used as weight filler in paper industry. The whitish colour of the Azara baryte and its high specific gravity (S.G.) account for its better use in the paper industry.

3. It is also used in rubber processing industry. It is invaluable in coagulating rubber even in the absence of sulphur which helps in vulcanizing rubber.

4. It is used in the glass manufacturing industry

5. It is used in building asbestos roofs and quality wall paper. As asbestos is increasingly becoming fashionable among Nigeria builders, this opens a new window for those companies to look inward for baryte. The high specific gravity quality and strategic location makes the Azara baryte a better alternative.

6. It is also used in chemical industries for agro-allied applications. For example, it is used in the making of animal feeds, fertilizers, and so on.

7. Recent application in the pharmaceutical companies for drugs has made the search for baryte like the search for the mythical Treasure Island.

8. The transportation and technical cost of exploiting Azara deposit is comparatively lower than that of importing the commodity from abroad. This will greatly save the country some foreign exchange, while, at the same time, developing local economic. Little wonder that the government has rightly banned the importation of baryte into the country thereby boosting local production and generating employment and general happiness.

9. It is on record, based on more recent estimate, that there is a total reserve of about seven hundred and thirty thousand (73,000) tonnes of baryte to be found in only five of the thirteen veins discovered at Azara. This report is courtesy of the Project Manager, NBMPC Ltd, Azara, given on the 13th of July, 2005. It should be noted however that 96% of Azara baryte is used by the oil and gas industry as oil-well stabilizer. On the whole, there should be reserves of over a hundred thousand tonnes of high quality barytes at Azara, where about 18 veins measuring about 2m x 1000m are being mined under the supervision of the Nigeria Mining Corporation.



There is no gain saying the fact that the discovering of baryte in Azara has greatly helped Nasarawa State in the eradication of unemployment in the state. It is an undeniable fact that baryte exploration in Azara has provided employment for a great majority of indigenes and residents of Nasarawa State, especially Awe Local Government Area with particular emphasis on Azara community. These people would otherwise have been unemployed and this would have given the state government a serious headache. Hundreds of residents and indigenes of the state, especially women, girls and youths have been gainfully employed at the Azara mining veins. Some are diggers, loaders, miners, machine operators, and so on. These people earn a worthy income daily. This research revealed that the least paid worker earns, at least seven hundred naira (N700), daily. If that is calculated over a period of thirty days (a month) they would be earning twenty one thousand (N 21,000) monthly. To think that these workers are the least paid at the sites and they are unskilled is amazing. If they were to await the scarce public service employment and get it, they would probably have been earning the minimum wage which is grossly incomparable to the income they happily earn at the mining sites.

It should be borne in mind that, had these people - hundreds of them - not been employed by the exploration activities of baryte, the state government would have had to contend with serious social security and public security problems as many of them could have turned to criminals or thugs, which is essentially associated with unemployment.


There is no valid contention of the fact that the discovery and eventual exploration of baryte in Azara has greatly increased the revenue base of Nasarawa State. Royalties and taxes are paid to the three tiers of government (the federal, the state and the local governments) by the firms exploiting the solid minerals.

This research revealed that, for each truck that leaves Azara daily, about seven thousand six hundred naira (N7,600) is remitted to the various tiers of government and the host community in this order; (Courtesy of the Project Manager, NBMPC Ltd., Azara.

Federal Government N 3, 600

Local Government Levy - N3000

Miners Association’s Levy (State Govt.) - N500

Community Development Levy - N500

This statistical analysis is courtesy of the Project Manager of the Nigeria Barite Mining and Processing Company (NBPMC) Limited, Azara. From the above analysis, it is evident that the state government earns about 52.6% from each trailer load leaving Azara whereas the Federal Governemnt earns about 47.4%. The revenue becomes very significant when it is considered against the backdrop that there are at least ten trailers which leave Azara on a daily basis, including Saturdays and Sundays. If a rough estimation is made, it would be discovered that Nasarawa State can make at least modest revenue of forty thousand naira (N 40,000), daily as royalties and fourteen million, six hundred thousand naira per annum. When this revenue is considered against the backdrop that only five out of the existing eighteen veins are currently being exploited and below capacity, several question would be begging for urgent answers. Some of the questions that would quickly arise are:

“What is the government doing to benefit from this lucrative solid mineral?” …“What are the constraints of improving production of the solid mineral?”… “Can’t the state government establish its own processing company to benefit from this venture thereby creating more jobs for its teaming population?” “What can the government do to boost production and encourage local processing?”

These questions are germane to ensuring the economic viability of baryte as a veritable alternative income for Nasarawa State. As ‘hot’ as the demand for these solid minerals at both local and international markets, Nasarawa State should have been comparable to richly endowed cities like Port Harcourt, Warri and Texas. It should be noted that the above stated statistical analysis does not include how much the government would make if it involved in the exploration process. The government could make five hundred percent or more if it involved in the exploration process


The discovery and exploration of baryte deposits at Azara has tremendously empowered to people and government of the host community. These people do not necessarily have to remain a burden to the government any longer. The government would no longer have to experience sleepless nights trying to provide social services for them. The community is being involved in the exploration process as forty percent (40%) of the mining right is reserved for the local community. Again, this information is courtesy of the Project Manager, NBMPC Ltd Azara.


The export of these solid minerals serves as foreign exchange earning to the state because baryte is used in so many industrial processes like drilling of oil, gas manufacturing, paint manufacturing, in the paper industry, in the rubber processing industry, in agro chemical/pharmaceutical industries, and so on. It can be a veritable source of foreign exchange earning for the country and Nasarawa State in particular. The proceeds from the earning realized from these minerals can be used to pay for capital goods, imported. It can also be used to invest on investments. Although, at the present time, it has not assumed the dimension of an expert commodity due to under utilization, it is hoped that with the governments’ improved investment in the exploration and processing of baryte from its crude state to its finished product, the commodity shall become one of the export commodities that Nasarawa State will boast of and that will earn good money for state and the federation. The multivariate use of barite allows search for greater tonnage and quality barytes. The Azara baryte has better mineralogical and geochemical properties which are in contra-distinction from barite found in other parts of the country. Its strategic geological and geographical location generally reduces transportation cost, exploration cost, technological overburden, which invariably increases its economic viability compared with the present day market value of baryte.

Besides generating foreign income for the federation as well as for Nasarawa State, baryte exploration in Azara will save the nation from over spending on importation of the commodity thereby gaining foreign exchange.
Thanks to the federal government which has graciously banned the further importation of barytes into the country. This has, by no small means, encouraged and boosted local production of the solid minerals.


The earning realized from these solid minerals, especially baryte, can transform the fortune of the state positively. When properly managed (this is essential) the earning from baryte, as well as other solid minerals in the state could transform the landscape and general infrastructure of the state, tremendously. The earning can be used for the provision of basic social amenities such building highways, flyovers, stadium, airports, new harbors, repairing bad roads, electricity, health care centres, modern colleges and tertiary institutions, pipe borne water, electricity, health care centres, , recreation and tourist centres, communication networks, and so on.


Any sensitive government must learn the immense importance of industrialization in the rapid development of their economies. Many sensitive governments have thus set up or encouraged the setting up of industries in their various states. It therefore helps to reduce the over-dependence on crude oil. The only way of achieving this goal is to diversity their economies by encouraging rapid industrialization. Baryte is a veritable sector that could contribute over forty percent of the Gross National Product (GNP) if harnessed to the fullest and over sixty percent of foreign exchange earnings. The presence of solid minerals in a state or nation attracts both local and foreign investors to invest in such state or nation. For example, Rivers State is highly industrialized because of its natural resources - crude oil - which precipitated the establishment of multinational oil companies like Shell Petroleum, Chevron, Elf, Total, Texaco, Mobil, and so on, to exploit the natural resources into finished product. This would be the case also with Nasarawa State if the government and people of the state embark on a serious drive to promote exploration activities going on in these sites, especially baryte exploration. Taxes and royalties are paid by the industries to the government. For instance, Lagos State government earns most of her revenue from taxes and royalties paid to her by industries and companies located the state.


If the government encourages private investors into the state and they come with industries and companies, there would be a natural tendency to increase the production level of the solid minerals. Increasing the number of industrial concerns in the state automatically enhances the chances of the exploration company getting larger markets for their products as raw materials for the industries. Such marketing facilities being in constant touch with distant customers, bulk purchasers of raw materials, and organized wholesales marketing sector for the state.


The workers employed in the various mining exploration sites in the state will gradually become more skilled in the techniques of production thus discouraging the need for foreign technicians and experts.


Having carried out this on-the-spot assessment of solid minerals in Nasarawa State, with particular reference to baryte exploration in Azara, I wish to proffer certain recommendations for the consideration of the state government.


The government of Nasarawa State has a crucial role to play in ensuring the economic viability of solid minerals as a veritable alternative income for the state with particular reference to baryte exploration in Azara. The government should ensure that there is abundant peace and security of lives and property in the state. The government should discourage, in clear terms, the perpetuation of ethnic, religious or political conflicts. This has the effect of promoting the reputation of the state, thereby encouraging foreign and national investors to come and invest in the economy of the state. In a summary, the government should ensure the creation of a stable political climate.

The government should allow and encourage private participation in the exploration activities in the state, especially baryte. Enabling laws and bye laws should be enacted to protect and ‘insure’ the various private investors or participants.

Industrial banks should be established to take care of the smooth running of the exploration industry. These banks can provide capital loans or grants to local or foreign investors in the industry.


Government has an urgent duty to provide and up grade social services like pipe borne safe drinking water, electricity, improved road network, and housing (especially for skilled miners), and so on. This will encourage more investors to establish mining industries in the state to exploit the solid minerals and also take advantage of the available infrastructure to ease the evacuation of raw materials and goods from the respective sites where they are produced to areas where they are needed. For example, the access road to Azara from Lafia is hardly motorable. Lorries fall very often and this, if allowed to continue, could discourage potential investors.


A visit to Azara community is tantamount to a disconnection from communication. There is no communication network providing services in the area. This is not encouraging to outside and foreign investors. The world is in a stage of globalization and communication is one major tool for making the world a ‘global village’. Communication leads to transformation and transformation leads to change in attitude. The government of Nasarawa State should encourage the telecommunication companies to extend their services to cover mining areas of the state, especially Azara community where it is most urgently needed.


Government should initiate objective policies aimed at training young men and women to remain and work as skilled or semi skilled labour in the exploration firms to boost production of unfinished products as well as finished products from the solid minerals, especially baryte, in the state. This has an additional effect of providing human capital development for the state. To achieve this also, vocational/technical schools and/or science colleges and polytechnics should be established with emphasis on solid minerals exploration since the state is the home of solid minerals. For instance the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) in Efurun, Delta State was established based on technical training of young men and women to remain and work in oil companies.


It is obvious that the state government would derive more revenue if it participates directly in the exploration process. Due to the high cost of processing the baryte into finished products, many private persons may not be able to invest in that area but the state government could source fund and invest in the short run with a view to getting the company public in the long run. It should be noted here that a metric tonne of the finished product of baryte stones cost one hundred and twenty thousand naira (N 120,000), where a tonne at Azara is valued at not more than five thousand naira. We can therefore see how much the government would be saving if it were to establish its own processing factory at Nasarawa. The gains would be tremendous and a lot more people would gain employment in the eventual factories.

It is commonly held in many quarters that Nigeria is endowed with vast natural resources but bad management of the resources have kept the nation perpetually under-developed. This should not be the case with Nasarawa State. Hence, government should appoint only trustworthy and reputable persons, preferably reputable renowned religious leaders, to manage its resources in order to ensure that the state gets its revenue correctly and provide dividend of good leadership.


Government should replace the mining machines with more recent or modern ones as the ones currently being used are obsolete especially that of the Nigeria Baryte Mining and Processing Company Ltd. (a division of the Nigeria Mining Corporation).


This is one of the problems besetting the Nigeria Mining Corporation. The Nasarawa State government should avoid this pitfall when it creates its own company to explore barytes at Azara.


Mining activities have various negative effects on the host community.

a. It is capable of taking them away from agriculture, which of course is another veritable alternative income earner for the state. When the people forsake agriculture they waste arable lands and there would be food shortage.

b. It is capable of preventing the people especially women and children from getting education. A visit to Azara mining site, one would notice that a majority of the workers there are mostly women and young girls.

c. It is capable of leading to ecological problems in the future.

It is my recommendation, therefore, based on the three major associated problems of mining, that government should encourage the people not to completely abandon agriculture. They should be taught the benefits of having more than one item as the economic product of a people. Also, serious sensitization, which may be aided by legislation, should begin, to encourage parents to let their wards go to school. In addition to this, nomadic schools should be set up at mining sites to ensure that the young ones will have the benefit of going to school. By so doing Nasarawa State will be investing in its future. As for ecological problems associated with baryte, and indeed solid minerals exploration, government should quickly get experts to access, study and make appropriate recommendation for the tackling of the likely problems before it wrecks havoc.

Author's Bio: 

Saintmoses Eromosele is a Nigerian author, journalist, publisher, rights activist and lawyer.