By Adekola Afolabi
Good days of economic prosperity are beckoning to Ondo State as the age-long dream of prospecting the world’s second largest deposit of Bitumen in the State into commercial quantity has begun.
Bitumen which was first discovered around 1900 in Agbabu by a German Company has 42billion barrels of bitumen reserve.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had last week approved a new policy on local production of Bitumen in the country.
Conducting newsmen round its processing yard at Agbabu, Irele Local Government Area of the state, a representative of South-West Bitumen Limited, Engr Oluwatominiyi Adeiya, said the needed equipment for scooping, excavation and processing have been procured for the commencement of the first local bitumen exploitation in Africa.
Among the several mining and processing equipments seen are bulldozers, excavator, wheel loader and mobile processing plants.
With the new development, the state Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has again made history in his industrial strides aimed at making the state an economic hub.
This is the first time any exploitation company will invest so much in the bitumen project since it was discovered many years ago.
While identifying the type of Bitumen in Ondo State as Tarsand variant which needs specialised technology for its processing into asphalt, Engr Adeiya assured that by the time the company’s processing plants are in place and operating at full capacity, importation of bitumen product into Nigeria would reduce drastically.
The South-West Bitumen representative disclosed that the Bitumen project has begun operation as a pilot case with the production of 20, 000 metric tons monthly.
He stated that before the end of the year, its product would be ready for its identified and interested local offtakers across the country thereby reducing the amount of foreign exchange being expended on the over 500, 000 metric tons of bitumen needs of Nigeria annually.
Also, the Company’s Mining Engineer, Wilfred Akinyeke, noted that the company would gradually increase its production capacity from 20,000 metric tons to 50,000 metric tons monthly and more.
He explained that all the economic trees and crops within the mining lists would be paid for to the land owners in the next few days, just as he added that all necessary studies and reports including Environmental, Social and Impact Assessment have already been carried out.
In his remarks, the Ondo state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo said the project is a dream come true and a promise made real.
The Commissioner added that Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has once again actualised one of his key promises of exploiting the state’s vast natural resources through direct investment for the well-being of the people.
While assuring the company of the support of the Akeredolu-led administration at making the state conducive for genuine investors, Mr Ojogo pleaded with South-West Bitumen to be good to its host community.
The Commissioner, who commended South West Bitumen Limited, for their commitment so far, said the latest feat has shown that the state is almost sailing through to its investment destination.
According to him, in a matter of months the state would be a different business hub much more than what is on ground at the Ondo-Linyl Industrial Hub, Ore, as many companies would also be interested in the project.
On his part, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Development and Investment/CEO ONDIPA, Mr Boye Oyewumi, appreciated the Federal Government for the grant of the prospecting licence to South West Bitumen Ltd.
He particularly gave kudos to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for his unwavering commitment to making the state economic hub in the country, noting that the Governor’s untiring efforts have gone beyond rhetorics but have now catalysed into a strategic pathway for Port Ondo.
Oyewumi added that the Bitumen exploitation would greatly boost the revenue generation of the state part from employment generation.
He revealed that the intention is to make Ondo state and the Bitumen site the capital of Bitumen in Africa, saying Governor Akeredolu has broken the barrier.
All the economic trees and crops within the mining lists would be paid for to the land owners in the next few days, just as he added that all necessary studies and reports including Environmental, Social and Impact Assessment have already been done.