By Mohammed Usman
As federal government sets for the diversification of the economy, one of the vital mineral resources that need more attention and enlightment, right from the exploration to its final usage, is gypsium.
Gypsium, which has chemical formula as CaSO4.2H2O, is a hydrated calcium sulphate used widely in industry because of its special property of losing three-fourth of the combined water of crystallization when moderately heated (calcined) to about 130 degree centigrade.
Industrially, Gypsium is utilized in the production of Plaster of Paris(P.O.P), production of ceramics/pottery, production of wall/flooring tiles, production of plaster/wall board and production of school chalks.It is also utilized in orthopaedic and dental plaster, used in pharmaceuticals, used as extenders and fillers for paints and paper industries, used in the production of oil well cements, used in the production of peuneable plaster for casting non-ferrous metals, used in art and sanctuary casting, in the production of lamp based. It is used in the production of patching and grouting compounds, insulating bricks and used in pattern and model making in the automotive and aircraft industries.
Gypsium occours in Adamawa, Taraba, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Benue, Ogun, Sokoto, Edo, Kogi and Abia states. But Gypium is being imported for usage in Nigeria.For instance, 1,548,701 and 1,697,746 tonnes was said to have been imported in the year 2010 and 2011 respectively.It was said that the establishement of a 10T/day capacity P.O.P plant is expected to save the country about $480,000/annum in foreign exchange.
It is in the light of these above that Raw Materials Research and Development Commission (RMRDC) is intervening, and currently bringing to the fore, the economic potentials of Gypsium for increasing the production in Nigeria. In the 2004 position paper presented by RMRDC at the inter-ministerial committee on Gypsium deposits in Nigeria, informed that sixteen states (16 states) of the federation have a total estimated reserve of over 156.5 million metric tones.
According to paper made available, in the course of developing Gypsium in Nigeria, some mining and manufacturing industries carried out survey and exploratory work of Gypsium in Nigeria, and came out with given results. One of these industries is the Nigeria Mining Corporation (NMC).NMC carried out a survey for cement Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (CMAN) between 1992-1993 on eight (8) major areas of gypsium deposits in Nigeria. The areas were Fika-Fune, Nafada-Mada, Guyuk, Sokoto, Auchi, Umogidi-Adoka, Oja-Odan, Ogun state and the Asu River Group, Ezeagu Shales and Awgu-Ndeaboh Shales(Eastern area).It added that the total geological reserve estimated for all the prospects was 1.646.153MT. It was revealed that there could be much more reserve within these prospects to the depth of 10 meters if more surface area was considered, adding that the gypsium purity range between 67-95%. The finding which revealed that large scale mining of these deposits would not be economically feasible due to the mode of occurrences and thickness of the gypsium, went further that the Nafada-Fika areas offer the best prospects in terms of extractable tonnages and over burden thickness to the limit of the work carried out. The maximum extractable gypsium(MT) in each of the areas investigated were, Sokoto 28.190, Fika-Fune 766.872, Nafada-Mada 751, 728,Guyuk 33,447, Auchi 46,341, Umogidi Adoka 11,899, Eastern areas 7,673.
An exploratory work carried out by Gypsium Company of Nigeria(GYCON) in Fika-Fune area of Yobe state totaling 15Km2 revealed that the reserve estimate for three (3) locations was significant. The reserves were put at 3.26 million metri tones(MT) for Kwayaya, 1.5 million MT for Mura and 3.91 million MT for Manawachi. It also revealed that the gypsium/shale ratio was 1:25 for Kwayaya and Mura, and 1:33 for Manawachi, adding “This means that enormous quantities of shale would need to be excavated to win large qualities of Gypsium.
Also, the result of exploratory work carried out by ASHAKA cement on gypsium in Fika-Fune area of Yobe state indicated that there was existence of appreciable reserves of gypsium of good quality.
Going by this above, it is obvious that some areas of deposits offer the best prospects for gypsium exploitation in Nigeria, and this call for the need for exploratory work to determine the economic viability of mining gypsium on a commercial scale.
To this end, the recommendations of the paper made available by RMRDC has it that to achieve good exploratory work on gypsium to determine its economic viability, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the origin and occurrence of gypsium before undertaking an exploration programme, adding that this may be obtained by a review of published literature. It also said that further details can be obtained from examination of outcrops of known deposits, Stressing “In areas where outcrops are not available, details may be from logs of oil or gas wells.”
“Sources of this type of information are published literature, unpublished university theses, geological surveys, geology departments in polytechnics and universities, oil companies and water well drillers in Nigeria.” It added.
Further added was that for Nigeria to achieve self-reliance in gypsium as raw materials, there should be increased and well coordinated Research and Development(R&D), aimed at providing detailed data on the quantity and quality of the gypsium reserves and appropriate technology for beneficiation /processing of raw gypsium to satisfy various industrial needs. It also has it that there is need to engage a competent indigenous/foreign firm to carry out the investigation on deposit occurrences in the country.
Following an extensive investigation, the paper which went with the recommendation that there is need to work with private sector organizations and state governments to establish beneficiation plants, added that efforts should be intensified towards establishing SMEs for the utilization of gypsium in manufacture of products listed in this work.
Also, it is in this connection that the RMRDC’s 1st meeting of the sub-committee on advocacy/publicity policy for the development/beneficiation of gypsium for POP and cement manufacturing main activities of advocacy/publicity intervention went as thus; development of gypsium for POP production and cement manufacture, Characterisation of the washed gypsium, Sinking of Borehole on site, Patenting of the washer, Optimisation of the process equipment, preparation of feasibility report and Stakeholders meetings.