Three years after the Federal Government awarded bitumen mining licence to the Ondo State Government, an indigenous firm, the South West Bitumen Ltd (SWB), is set to begin modular exploitation of bitumen deposits in the state.
Bitumen is a black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons obtained naturally or as a residue from petroleum distillation. It is used for road surfacing and roofing.
The firm secured a 25-year-old renewable operational mining licence for the exploitation of bitumen in the southern part of Ondo State, which has the largest deposit of bitumen in West Africa.
It said it had deployed initial processing and mining equipment to its operational base located at Lamidifa in Irele Local Government.
Addressing reporters at its Irele operational base on Sunday, a representative of Southwest Bitumen Ltd, Adeiya Oluwatominiyi, said earth moving equipment such as bulldozers, excavator and wheel loaders had been delivered for the mining of the bitumen.
Oluwatominiyi, an engineer, said the company planned to start with a modular processing for its pilot operations using German-made technology.
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He said experiments showed that the bitumen in Ondo State is in tar sand.
Oluwatominiyi said: “We have brought earth moving equipment such as bulldozer, escavator and wheel loaders.
“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.”
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The mining engineer at the yard, Wilfred Akinyeke, said the firm planned to produce 20 tons of bitumen monthly and is expected to reach 50,000 tonnes monthly when operating in full capacity.
Information and Orientation Commissioner Donald Ojogo said the beginning of the exploitation of bitumen was part of the promises of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to industrialise the state.
“What they are trying to do is a pilot project. This is the first time any company will expend so much on this project.
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This is the first time a company will take the licence and efforts and commitment will be seen, unlike in the past when people took the licence and went home to sleep.
“You know they cannot just jump over several fences and we are almost sailing through our investment destination.
As a state, what we require is the bitumen exploitation and the deep sea port. We are into this now and it is very reassuring that Governor Akeredolu will not rest until this is achieved.
“I know with what they have done, more firms will be ready to invest in this. It’s not easy to deploy this kind of technology and equipment. In a matter of six, seven months, we will be getting large production of bitumen from here,” he said.
The Special Adviser to Governor Akeredolu on Investment and Development, Boye Oyewumi, said the governor’s intention is to make Ondo State the capital of bitumen in Africa.
He said Governor Akeredolu was ready to do what others thought was impossible.
Oyewumi thanked the Federal Government for the help rendered in the course of moving the equipment.
He assured the Southwest Bitumen Ltd that the state is the most conducive place to do business.